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Why Did a California State Agency Invite a Motivational Speaker Portraying Spider-Man?

A motivational speaker wearing a Spider-Man mask addressed a recent event hosted by the State Controller’s Office, paid through a state contract intended for technology projects.

The speaker, Kaplan Mobray, commands speaking fees ranging between $20,000 and $30,000 according to his profile on Gotham Artists.

When contacted by The Bee, Mobray declined to disclose this information.

Mobray delivered his speech on June 12 to state employees at the Health and Human Services Agency, Department of Public Health auditorium in Sacramento, as per an email statement from office spokesman Bismarck Obando.

The State Controller’s Office employs 1,465 people according to their data and is overseen by State Controller Malia Cohen, who is up for reelection in 2026.

Obando clarified in his email that Mobray “was not contracted by the State Controller’s Office and as such we do not have any information relative to the amount he charges.”

He further explained that Mobray was engaged by the firm Ernst and Young, a state vendor involved in the office’s multi-billion-dollar technology projects. The cost for Mobray’s services was covered within Ernst and Young’s contract.

The Bee attempted to reach Ernst and Young for comment but did not receive a response by the deadline.

The purpose of Mobray’s speaking engagement, mandatory for all State Controller’s Office employees with many attending remotely, remains unclear.

Obando highlighted that the office’s technology projects aim to enhance operational efficiency, with last week’s meeting serving as part of a strategic planning process involving change management.

Mobray specializes in personal branding, sales and performance, and leadership elevation according to his personal website.

One Reddit poster described the speech as “half political rally for Cohen, half weird motivational speaker yelling at me about superheroes.”

When questioned about the optics of hiring Mobray amidst a $45 billion budget deficit, Obando stressed that Cohen is cognizant of the state’s fiscal challenges.

He noted, “The cost for Mr. Mobray’s services were not billed to the state and are not subject to reimbursements,” emphasizing efforts to minimize state expenses by utilizing existing resources and telecasting the event to SCO employees.

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