New firm takes over housing security Another complaint is filed against Solidarity's selection

April 15, 1997|By Walter F. Roche Jr. | Walter F. Roche Jr.,SUN STAFF

A private company took over security duties at two Baltimore City housing projects yesterday even as new charges of improprieties were leveled over the award of the $2.1 million contract.

At 8 a.m. yesterday, personnel from Solidarity Security and Investigative Services went on patrol at Murphy Homes and Flag House Courts, relieving guards from L. Washington and Associates of Philadelphia. The new company is charged with guarding seven buildings containing 1,245 housing units.

Housing authority spokesman Zack Germroth said the switch was "going exceptionally smoothly."

But L. Washington and Associates President Lanxton L. Washington filed a formal protest of the contract award to Solidarity. He charged that a key male employee of the winning company, whom he did not identify by name, had a personal relationship with a member of the review committee that helped pick Solidarity for the one-year contract.

In the protest letter filed with the housing authority, Washington said, "We know that a member of the selection committee has an ongoing relationship with the alleged new 'project manager,' which is a definite conflict of interest and detrimental to the selection process."

Fran Allen, a spokeswoman for Solidarity, denied the charges and said, "There is no personal relationship between any Solidarity employees and members of the selection committee."

She also said the company was working closely with residents of the projects and neighboring communities to bring improved safety and security. She said that as many as a dozen project residents have been hired. "We are doing a wonderful thing here," she said.

Washington, whose company was one of three finalists, also charged that the selection committee had failed to follow its criteria in evaluating the experience of the competing companies. He said that if the specifications had been followed, it would have been impossible for Solidarity to win, because that company had no prior experience or contracts.

Washington said he also planned to lodge a formal protest with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which funds the contract.

Washington's company is the second to challenge the decision of city Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III to give the contract to Solidarity. The contract has a one-year renewal option and a $2.1 million-a-year price.

At an April 4 news conference, Henson said Solidarity was the unanimous pick of the selection committee. He noted Solidarity's management plan and the experience of two of its officers, who previously worked for a separate company with an authority contract.

The first protest was filed last week by Watkins Security Agency Inc. That company also filed a second set of charges late last week, contending that city officials violated not only their own selection standards but also federal conflict of interest rules by picking Solidarity.

Noting that two members of the selection committee stepped aside because they had written letters of recommendation for Solidarity, Watkins lawyers said Henson also had a conflict of interest because Henson's appointment was voted on by Councilwoman Agnes B. Welch. Welch and her son William are part owners of the 2914 Edmondson Ave. building where Solidarity is located.

In its original protest letter, Watkins charged the award was "contrary to law," because of a conflict of interest and because its bid carried a lower price than the winner's.

Although Henson announced the selection April 4, Solidarity began recruiting employees for the new contract several days earlier. An ad placed in the March 30 Sun stated, "We have job openings," and asks applicants to report to the Edmondson Avenue address between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Allen said the company got word several days before the formal announcement.

The Solidarity contract is the fourth attempt to provide security at some of the city's most troubled projects.

Pub Date: 4/15/97

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