Business with ties to Welch gets contract Housing security operator includes former NOI aides

April 05, 1997|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore City housing authority has tentatively awarded a $2.1 million-a-year contract to a security guard company with business ties to a City Council member and her son.

Solidarity Security and Investigative Services Inc. -- which is headed by two former officials of a company that was ousted from the same job in 1995 -- is renting office space in a building owned by 4th District Councilwoman Agnes B. Welch, her son, William A. Welch Jr., and a third person.

And last year, according to state police licensing records, William Welch was an officer of Solidarity. But William Welch said a recent interview that he had decided against serving as an officer of the corporation. He said he did not know why his name appeared on state records.

Records show the same building has served as Agnes Welch's campaign headquarters. She did not respond yesterday to a request for comment.

Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III announced yesterday the tentative award to Solidarity Security, which was set up a little more than a year ago and has headquarters at the building, at 2914 Edmondson Ave.

He said he was not aware of the company's rental arrangements. "Nor," added Henson, "do I see why I would be."

Henson said that Solidarity's proposal, while not the cheapest, was rated highest by a selection committee. Solidarity's bid calls for payment at the rate of $10.35 per guard per hour, while a losing proposal from Watkins Security called for a rate of $10.21 per hour.

Henson said Solidarity's bid was considered superior in other categories, including its administrative capabilities and action plan for meeting the needs spelled out in a 33-page request for proposals issued by the authority Jan. 14.

Henson said the one-year contract, which has a one-year renewal option, is expected to be completed in time for Solidarity to take over security for seven particularly difficult housing authority buildings by April 14.

Henson said the company must get its state license renewed and provide evidence of insurance coverage. Richard Butchok, the attorney for Solidarity, said that the company had renewed its license and that more than required insurance coverage would be in effect by Monday.

Butchok said he did not know where or from whom Solidarity was renting its office space. He did say the company does not have any other clients. He said that he was not aware of any involvement by William Welch with the company.

Henson also disclosed that two members of the selection committee, both representing housing tenants, had withdrawn from the process after it was learned that they had written letters of recommendation for Solidarity.

Solidarity, Henson said, is headed by Allen Ackerman and Larry Barnwell, both former officers of NOI Security, an affiliate of the Nation of Islam. NOI won the security contract in early 1995.

That $4.3 million contract was canceled in late 1995 at the insistence of officials of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, who said the award should have gone to Wells Fargo Guard Services, which had submitted a lower bid. Wells Fargo then took on the job but its contract was terminated Feb. 13 because, city officials charged, it was not doing an adequate job. Since then, L. Washington & Associates has been doing the job on an emergency interim basis. L. Washington was one of the unsuccessful bidders for the permanent contract.

Henson said Ackerman and Barnwell were no longer affiliated with NOI, but had drawn on their experience with that company (( to come up with the winning proposal.

Under the contract, Solidarity will provide round-the-clock security for seven buildings containing 1,245 housing units at Flag House Courts and Murphy Homes.

Henson said HUD officials had closely monitored the latest procurement and had approved the process.

The contract announcement was the latest chapter in a series of attempts by the city agency to provide security in its dwindling inventory of high-rise buildings.

One company, Trident Security, withdrew from the bidding and two others were disqualified for "a potential irregularity" and an apparent infraction of bidding rules, which Henson termed a "dumb mistake."

Henson said the same person had signed a key noncollusion document for NOI Security and Star-Brite Security Inc. That document, required by HUD, is a certification that details of the bid proposal were not made known to any of the competitors.

Trident withdrew its bid after it was disclosed that two of its owners were city employees, one of them a member of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's security detail.

Trident officials said they had received clearance for the venture from the city Ethics Board.

Pub Date: 4/05/97

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