The awarding of a marketing contract to Fahlgren Mortine earlier this year is at the heart of a shakeup at the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
Three DHHR senior staffers have been on paid leave since mid-July because they raised questions about the contract. News stories have repeatedly referred to Fahlgren Mortine as an Ohio-based firm, which is true. The company is headquartered in Columbus.
But that's not the whole story.
Fahlgren Mortine (pronounced "Mort-tyne") consists of numerous businesses that have merged over the years. Smoot Fahlgren established one of those, an advertising agency, in 1962, in Parkersburg.
In 1986, Neil Mortine established a public relations firm as part of Lord, Sullivan & Yoder in Marion, Ohio, and moved it to Columbus.
Steve Drongowski was named to succeed Smoot Fahlgren as CEO in 1994. Drongowski was based in Columbus and the top management of the company moved there.
In 2003, Fahlgren acquired the public relations firm and the changed its name to Fahlgren Mortine Public Relations.
Neil Mortine became chief executive officer of Fahlgren Inc. in 2010 and promptly made three acquisitions: Edward Howard & Co. of Cleveland, GRIP Technology of Columbus and certain assets of Sabatino Day of Dayton.
Spokeswoman Melissa Dykstra said Fahlgren Mortine now has 167 employees in eight offices: Charleston and Parkersburg in West Virginia; Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton and Toldeo in Ohio, plus Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
The company also has a presence in Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Lexington, Ky.; Denver, Colo.; and Chattanooga, Tenn. "We don't have a physical office in those cities but we do have a person on the ground working there," Dykstra said.
"That entire region - the Midwest and down through the Southeast - we're seeing growth," she said. "It is important for us to have locations there."