City Desk

Giver Beware: If You’re Doing Pro Bono Work for the District, Don’t Sign Any Checks

It seemed like a simple enough plan for the venerable public relations firm Ogilvy: Design a few ads for the D.C. Public Schools' new teacher recruitment initiative, place them in local media markets, get good corporate karma for doing the work pro bono, and bill the District for any expenses incurred.

Except if they don't reimburse you for those expenses. That's exactly what happened, and now Ogilvy is suing to get paid back for the $143,000 it spent on the District's behalf. Some thankyou!

According to the complaint, exactly a year ago, DCPS approached Ogilvy proposing that the firm design an ad campaign to attract new teachers, and place the ads online and in local publications like the Washington Post Express. A contract was signed, Ogilvy did the work, and with explicit approvals from DCPS officials, cut checks so the ads could run.

By the summer, it was time for Ogilvy to get its money back. But the Office of Contracting and Procurement refused to pay, saying it wasn't a legal contract. So now Ogilvy's out $143,000, and hoping a judge will force the District to fork it over. And you can bet they probably won't be doing any more free work for the District in the future.

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  • Drez

    For DC's sake I hope there's another side to this and DC can articulate it coherently.