Steve Sugerman, a former Fleishman Hillard executive who pleaded guilty to felony charges of overbilling the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, has signed a strategic alliance with the L.A. office of Hill & Knowlton.

Sugerman left Fleishman in 2002 because of concerns about the DWP account. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to participating in a scheme to bilk the city out of $120,000. Due to his cooperation with authorities, he received probation while colleagues Douglas Dowie and John Stodder both received prison time.

Today, Sugerman Communications Group specializes in public affairs and issue management.

Hope Boonshaft, general manager of the local H & K; offices, said her company wants to expand into the public sphere and the Sugerman deal offered a shortcut in spite of any legal history.

"Steve is not only really smart, he's a good guy, a good practitioner," said Boonshaft. "People make mistakes and it's time to put those behind and move on."

Sugerman's clientele are large companies that deal extensively with the government. He has helped shipping giant Maersk navigate the issue of clean air in the ports and real estate developer Playa Vista work with local municipalities, for example.

The agency alliance breaks down geographically. Sugerman brings expertise in dealing with politicians and bureaucracy in Southern California, while H & K; has offices nationally and internationally that can provide service to his clients, Sugerman said.

Both companies will maintain their independence but "for the most part, we'll be collaborators" instead of competitors, Sugerman said.

Award Wrangling

Brave Dog, a new PR agency, specializes in the Hollywood-centric world of advertising award competitions.

The agency manages every aspect of an award's production: development of categories, promotion of the competition, receiving and processing entries, recruiting judges and organizing judging panels, tabulating results and, finally, working with the award show producers. Founders Stephen McCarthy and Juan Carlos Castano previously ran the PromaxBDA Awards, the top prizes for TV and online marketers.

McCarthy said the agency concentrates on advertising competitions because film and script contests are fairly straightforward. By contrast, ads have to be digitized and submitted to multiple judges. The sheer number of entries PromaxBDA often had 12,000 submissions and 500 judges makes an advertising contest a logistical headache.

On the flip side, Brave Dog also consults with ad and PR agencies to get their creations into the right competitions to win awards.

"Some companies have entire departments to handle entering award competitions but most don't," said Castano. "Usually the task of entering is given to people who have no connection with the work, and many times the lack of experience can result in mistakes. We can prevent that and make the process of entry into any competition a relatively painless one."

PRSA L.A. Awards

Ketchum Public Relations and Hill & Knowlton tied for the most awards each earned four first-place trophies and three awards of excellence at the annual gathering of the Public Relations Society of America's Los Angeles chapter.

The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power won Best of Show for its work on the Lower Owens River Project Water Release Ceremony. GolinHarris Los Angeles won the PR Team of the Year Award.

Other local organizations that received multiple first-place finishes include Allison & Partners, GolinHarris, L.A. Care Health Plan, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, PainePR, Rogers & Cowan and the Hoyt Organization.

ABC-TV (Channel 7) news anchor David Ono served as emcee for the banquet, held at the Hollywood Renaissance Hotel. The ceremony recognized winners in 35 categories, culled from more than 190 entries. A complete list of winners appears on the Web at

The PRSA also presented a Distinguished Public Relations Professional Award to Ron Hartwig, vice president of communications at the J. Paul Getty Trust. Previously, Hartwig served as general manager of the Los Angeles office of Hill & Knowlton and also on the faculty at USC.

Agencies & Accounts

Partners in PR firm Barnett Ellman LLC appeared in the Nov. 5 issue of BusinessWeek as some of the "Best U.S. Entrepreneurs Under 25." Tyler Barnett and Jason Ellman were the only business-starters from L.A. to make the list. Anchor Blue, denim retailer formerly known as Miller's Outpost, has selected L.A.'s Davidandgoliath as its ad. The new agency will debut ads this month in a holdiay shopping campaign. Peter Brown, a former aide to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has joined PR firm MWW Group as vice president in the Los Angeles office.

Staff reporter Joel Russell can be reached at , or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 237.

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