Colorado cities pay thousands to media company under investigation by Florida Attorney General

$19,800 in CO taxpayer money spent on infomericals

ARVADA, Colo. - Towns across Colorado continue to cut their budgets as a weak economy generates less tax revenue.

Despite this, CALL7 Investigators found some towns are paying thousands of dollars to a media company under investigation by the Florida Attorney General's Office. 

"I think the final product was outstanding," said Mark Deven, Arvada City manager. He approved a $19,800 deal with United States Media Television Group, based in south Florida, to produce a four-minute video.

"I think it does a great job showcasing Arvada and showing our assets," Deven said about the segment that aired under the name of "Today in America," but also goes by other names like "Viewpoints."

The segment, hosted by former NFL quarterback and Fox Sports commentator Terry Bradshaw, aired several times on channels in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Las Vegas, Nev., and nationally on the FOX Business Network in the late afternoon.

Arvada city leaders said they weren’t given a guarantee on how many people would see their video when it aired on television, but paid for a monitoring service to make sure it aired. Deven said he hopes that it will attract residents and businesses to the city.

"We haven’t had anyone call and say we’re interested in Arvada yet. However, we’ve gotten positive feedback from citizens who viewed it on our website and (by) other means… who’ve indicated they think it's a very good video," he said.

CALL7 Investigators asked Deven why he felt Arvada residents would be the part of the target audience of a video that is trying to attract newcomers to the city.

"We certainly want our citizens and residents to feel good about the place and that's another reason we’re promoting Arvada," Deven said.

According to Deven, residents viewed the video on the town’s website and Facebook page.

In an email to CALL7, a city of Arvada spokeswoman said 6,174 people had viewed the video on the city's YouTube site.

Yet, residents of Arvada we spoke with said the money could have been put to good use elsewhere.

"I think it’s crazy and a little outrageous to put that out there like that, when we have websites and brochures," said resident Samantha Diaz.

She felt the city should know how many people watched the video on television to get a good idea if was worth investing taxpayers' dollars.

"We should know what the ratings would be for something like that, if it’s something we are paying for," she said.

CALL7 showed the video to resident Robert Harryman, who said didn’t understand its purpose -- or value.

"I feel great about where I live, so I don't need a $20,000 dollar video for that," said Harryman.

More alarming is that the Florida Attorney General's Office is currently investigating the production company that produced the video for violations of an Agreement of Voluntary Compliance with the state that the company reached in 2007.

Florida Attorney General's Office spokesman John Lucas would not elaborate on what those violations are, citing an ongoing investigation which began in March.

In a 2007 case, the Florida attorney general claimed United States Media Television Group, which went by Platinum TV at the time, was engaging in "deceptive" business practices and "unfair trade practices."

The company voluntarily agreed to create a restitution fund for previous clients and the state fined the company $100,000 to cover the state’s costs of the investigation.

Jim Veser, vice president of production at United States Media, disputed Lucas' claim. Veser denied that the company is currently under investigation by the Florida AG and said the issues have been resolved.

Veser told CALL7 Investigators that the complaint stemmed from a disgruntled employee. "We absolutely have followed the voluntary compliance agreement; it’s something we need to do," said Veser.

Call7 Investigators asked Veser for an on-camera or recorded telephone interview about the program itself, but he said he needed to speak with company CEO Paul Scott first.

Veser never followed-up nor did he return our calls.

Deven, the Arvada city manager, said he didn’t know about the Florida attorney general's action against the company until CALL7 Investigators told him about it.

The town of Rocky Ford also paid the company nearly $20,000 for a video segment that hasn’t been aired yet.  A town official told CALL7 the money was put to good use, trying to help undo the damage from last year's listeria cantaloupe recall.

Alamosa also paid the company, with help from the town’s marketing district.

Alamosa City Manager Nathan Cherpeski said the video was needed to replace an outdated video.

The selling point wasn’t that the infomercial would air on television stations in different markets, but that Bradshaw was the narrator for it.

Bradshaw didn’t go to Alamosa to tape the segment; instead it was single camera man who shot video and interviews.

CALL7 watched the video and noticed Bradshaw mispronounced San Luis Valley.

"Honestly, it was Terry Bradshaw, so we didn’t care," Cherpeski said of the mispronunciation.

Cherpeski said the Florida company was difficult to work with and the segment had to be re-voiced several times after producers incorrectly named several locations around town.

Louisville declined the company’s offer to produce a video for that city. "For us, it seemed like a huge amount of money," said Town Manager Malcolm Fleming.

He said the town was getting free national coverage from other media outlets, so why pay for coverage when the money could be put to use elsewhere. Fleming gave an example like the town’s annual Fourth of July fireworks show.

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