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Report says $10 million bridge deal included book

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- State officials overseeing construction of the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge had agreed to pay nearly $10 million to a San Francisco-based public relations firm for services that included thousands of dollars to conduct tours and produce a video and commemorative book, The Sacramento Bee reported Wednesday (http://bit.ly/Z1D85B).

A contract document shows that besides conducting public relations work, Words Pictures Ideas LLC was contracted to produce a “documentary video and book to highlight and document all events leading up to the opening celebrations,” The Bee reported.

The contract was signed by the California Department of Transportation in August and approved by the state Department of General Services on Sept. 4. It included $46,196 for a writer and $500,000 for book printing.

A spokesman for the state Business, Transportation & Housing Agency, which oversees Caltrans, said his agency ordered the contract canceled after Caltrans provided records of the contract to The Bee at the newspaper's request.

“When we found out about it, we cancelled it,” spokesman Jim Evans told The Bee. “A commemorative book and a documentary about the Bay Bridge is not a wise use of tollpayer resources.”

Evans described the contract as “excessive” and said it “wasn't properly vetted at Caltrans headquarters.”

An after-hours call to Caltrans from The Associated Press was referred to Evans, who didn't immediately return a request for additional comment.

Ben Davis, the founder of Words Pictures Ideas, told The Bee that when the company received notice that the contract had been canceled, it came “as a bit of a surprise.” Messages left after hours for Davis were not immediately returned.

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Information from: The Sacramento Bee, http://www.sacbee.com

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