Nation of Islam Security sues HUD Housing department wrongly ended contract, company officials contend

U.S. says $4.6 million deal unfairly given to NOI firm

November 16, 1995|By Michael James | Michael James,SUN STAFF

The Nation of Islam's security company filed a federal lawsuit yesterday, alleging that U.S. housing officials are causing "financial devastation" to the business by wrongfully ordering the termination of a $4.6 million contract to patrol Baltimore's housing projects.

Predicting that the canceled contract will put hundreds of their security employees out of work, NOI officials alleged the Department of Housing and Urban Development unlawfully breached the contract in response to political pressure from Jewish organizations.

The security agency is affiliated with the Nation of Islam, led by Minister Louis Farrakhan. He has been criticized for making anti-Semitic remarks.

"We're being punished because of our religion," NOI Security's attorney, Abdul Arif Muhammad, said at a news conference outside U.S. District Court in Baltimore yesterday. "This contract cannot just be directed by HUD to be broken."

The lawsuit seeks to enjoin federal officials from terminating the contract. Mr. Muhammad said he is seeking a hearing today on a request for an immediate ruling.

A HUD opinion last week ordered city housing officials to sever the NOI contract and to turn over security at a dozen buildings to Wells Fargo Guard Services, which bid to do the job a year ago for $1.1 million less. According to HUD, the city's decision to award the contract to NOI was "arbitrary" and in violation of federal procurement regulations.

Vivian Potter, a HUD spokeswoman, refused to comment

yesterday, saying that the agency hadn't yet received a copy of the lawsuit.

Baltimore Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III also declined to comment on the lawsuit. He said the housing authority is sending a letter to NOI, formally notifying them that their contract is being terminated.

The lawsuit alleges that HUD violated NOI Security's right to due process by terminating the contract without notice and without allowing the company to be heard. It also alleges HUD violated NOI's First Amendment rights to free exercise of religion and religious association.

It adds that "the defendants' action would be immediately injurious to the public safety" of the residents of city housing complexes patrolled by NOI Security. The company claims crime in the high-rises, once a bastion for drug dealing and crime, has been reduced by 44 percent since it took over security in the buildings.

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