6 firms vie to guard housing 1 run by mayor's aides raises questions of ethical conflict

2 others linked to NOI

Multimillion-dollar job of providing security at high-rises at stake

March 08, 1997|By Walter F. Roche | Walter F. Roche,SUN STAFF

A company headed by two aides to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and two firms linked to the Nation of Islam are among the contenders for a multimillion-dollar contract to provide security at Baltimore's public housing projects.

The principals of Trident Group Inc. -- one of six companies submitting proposals to the Housing Authority of Baltimore City -- include Glenn Valis, a city police officer assigned to Schmoke's security detail, and Darryl J. Madden, a former administrative assistant to the mayor, now chief of the parking division in the city Department of Public Works.

The bid submissions by the two Nation of Islam-related firms come 15 months after the city voided its contract with one of the firms over questions about the validity of its bidding process raised by officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Schmoke issued a statement late yesterday saying he was unware of the two city workers' involvement in the bidding until questions were posed by a reporter.

If he had been informed, Schmoke said, he would have advised the two to seek an opinion from the city Board of Ethics before they submitted a bid.

If the pair did win the contract, Schmoke said he would be concerned whether the two could continue to "fully perform their duties as city employees as well as supervising an important private-sector contract."

In an interview last night, Madden said that the two did seek an opinion from the city Board of Ethics and that the panel concluded that there was no conflict as long as the firm did not seek business with the two city agencies that employ them.

"We felt we needed to be on firm ground," said Madden. "We wouldn't do it if it wasn't proper."

Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III, who has appointed a selection committee to review the six proposals, said he was unaware of the owners of any of the bidding firms.

Informed of Madden's and Valis' involvement with the Trident Group, Henson said he did not know whether that would violate any city rules.

"I haven't the slightest idea what this is all about," said Henson, adding that he would pass along the information to the panel now reviewing the bids.

Zack Germoth, a spokesman for the housing agency, said that the selection process was expected to be completed this month. The winning firm would take over security duties in seven housing authority buildings during the first or second week of April.

The city is seeking a new contractor because it terminated its contract with Wells Fargo late last year. Wells Fargo got the contract after the city was ordered by HUD to rescind its original decision to give the pact to NOI Security Agency Inc., an affiliate of the Nation of Islam.

Federal officials said awarding the initial contract to NOI Security boosted the overall cost of security by $1.1 million.

That original contract was for $4.6 million, but the latest pact is expected to carry a lower price tag because the number of buildings to be guarded has been reduced.

NOI Security is one of the six firms that submitted a proposal by the Feb. 14 deadline for the new contract. The other NOI-related firm to submit a bid was Solidarity Security and Investigative Services.

State corporate records list Allen Ackerman as the resident agent for NOI Security and Solidarity. Calls to Ackerman, whose address is listed on the records of both firms, were not returned. Ackerman has previously been identified as a vice president for NOI Security.

James Kelly, a spokesman for the local office of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, said it did not appear that the involvement of the two city employees in such a contract would violate federal procurement regulations.

He said that there would be a problem if there were a blood or familial relationship between those making a decision on the contract and the owners or principals of the firm.

Kelly said HUD would, nonetheless, be monitoring the procurement to ensure that federal and city rules were followed.

Attempts to reach Valis at his city office and at the Trident Group office were unsuccessful. Trident's business records list Valis' home address as its location.

Valis, who serves as the mayor's driver, earns a base salary of tTC $36,827 a year as a city police officer. He's been on the city payroll since 1981. Madden went to work as an administrative assistant to the mayor on Jan. 31, 1991, at a salary of $48,900.

Under Police Department regulations, officers must get approval from their commanding officer to engage in outside employment. An aide to Valis' supervisor, Col. Steven Crumrine, said Valis' work with the security guard firm had been approved.

The other bidders for the new security contract are L. Washington and Associates of Philadelphia, Watkins Security Agency of Baltimore and Star Brite Security of Baltimore.

The housing authority originally issued a request for proposals late last year and set a Jan. 3 deadline for submitting proposals. Thirteen days after the original deadline passed, the request was amended to set a Feb. 14 deadline.

Pub Date: 3/08/97

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