Should USSA/Watkins Be Protecting D.C. Schoolchildren?
Congratulations to Washington reporter Jeffrey Anderson for bringing to light the poor track record of U.S. Security Associates (USSA) and its subcontractor Watkins Security Agency, a firm hired to protect children in Washington’s public schools.
USSA’s contract for the DC Public Schools is now under review by the City Council, as will soon be USSA’s contract for other public buildings in the District.
According to Anderson, USSA and/or Watkins in recent years have:
- Failed “multiple security penetration tests.”
- Been fined more than 70 times by D.C.’s Department of Real Estate Services for security and contract violations over the past year.
- Been found by the D.C. Office of Inspector General to have persistent problems with employee screening and training.
- Allegedly violated minimum-wage laws in D.C.
- Been the beneficiary of more than $8 million in District overspending.
- Been hit with a $2.3 million judgment for sexual harassment and retaliation.
- Been sued by the EEOC in 2009 for alleged discrimination, retaliation, and sexual harassment in Alabama — a case which was just settled in May 2011 with a far reaching consent decree and payment of $1.95 million.
- Been sued by the EEOC in 2009 for pregnancy discrimination and retaliation in Georgia and entered into a consent decree to settled the EEOC suit.
- Been sued in Michigan under the state’s Whistleblower Protection Act for alleged retaliation against a whistleblower.
- Incurred litigation in at least a dozen states.
Should USSA and Watkins be trusted with the safety and protection of D.C.’s schoolchildren?
For D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, the answer is “yes.” Anderson reports that the mayor is urging the D.C. Council to take “prompt and favorable action” to approve and extend USSA/Watkins’ multi-million dollar contract, despite knowing the controversial history of USSA.
How can this be? Anderson surmises that it may have something to do with the fact that Watkins is headed by a retired Metropolitan Police Department detective who also happens to have been an acquaintance of the mayor for the past 25 years.
Whatever the motive, taxpayers expect good value for their investment in public school security. That means good jobs to strengthen D.C.’s economy and high-quality security services to protect D.C.’s children.
Both the mayor and the City Council should examine USSA’s and Watkins’ records and then act in the best interests of the public.
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