Pasquotank is paying up to $595 an hour to a crisis communication consulting firm that is helping the county respond in the aftermath of the shooting death of Andrew Brown Jr. But most of the hours being billed to the county are $250 an hour.
Brown was shot and killed by Pasquotank sheriff’s deputies on April 21 as they attempted to execute arrest and search warrants at his home on Perry Street.
County Manager Sparty Hammett said the county hired Ohio-based Communications Counsel in the hours after the shooting. Hammett did not say how many hours the firm has worked for the county so far but said that firm founder Mark Weaver is paid $595 an hour while another CC staff member is paid $250 an hour.
Hammett said Weaver, who is also an adjunct professor at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Government, is an attorney and nationally respected crisis communications expert.
“They were retained as an emergency response, and I called to poll the Board of Commissioners before I retained them,” Hammett said. “There is no defined length to their agreement as they will be retained as long as their services are necessary.”
Brown’s shooting death immediately attracted widespread media attention and Hammett called the N.C. Association of County Commissioners for advice and they recommended Weaver.
Weaver once served as deputy attorney general of Ohio, where he was responsible for crisis management, strategic counseling and all communications for a department with 1,400 employees.
Hammett said the county was looking for an expert who is familiar with crisis communications in a law enforcement setting.
“Particularly where issues of potential litigation and criminal investigation are involved,” Hammett said. “The use of outside experts who understand law enforcement communications to help ensure accuracy and speed of communication is a common practice, particularly for counties like ours that have no communications staff.”
Hammett said Pasquotank makes decisions about what is best for the county regarding Brown’s shooting and the firm directs those communications to the public.
“They help us identify methods and tactics of communication that will help educate our county residents about what we’re doing, without undermining or impeding any of the ongoing investigations or unfairly prejudicing any future court cases,” Hammett said.
Editor's note: The original version of this story stated the county was paying Communication Counsel almost $800 an hour for its crisis consulting work in the aftermath of Andrew Brown Jr.'s shooting death. That cost, however, is a combination of what firm founder Mark Weaver is paid — $595 an hour — and what another CC staff member is paid — $250 an hour. County Manager Sparty Hammett explained that only one Communication Counsel staff member is working at a time, and that the county is mostly being billed at the $250 hourly rate.