DC Mayor Withdraws Support for Security Firm

 

In a victory for the Washington DC community, Mayor Vincent Gray recently withdrew the contract of security firm U.S. Security Associates, Inc. (USSA). The firm had been awarded contracts to protect the city’s public buildings and schools since 2009, and had held an $18 million contract for the past year.

In a letter to Council Chairman Kwame Brown, Mayor Gray explained, “While the vendor has satisfied its contractual obligations to the District, several Council members have expressed reservations about its employment practices.”

The company has a poor record involving a history of lawsuits across 14 states claiming harassment, discrimination, retaliation against whistleblowers, wage violations, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations.

In D.C. alone, USSA and its subcontractor Watkins Security failed multiple penetration tests, allowing plain-clothed agents to sneak weapons into public buildings. The company was fined more than 70 times by D.C.’s Department of Real Estate Services for security and contract violations over the past year. Moreover, Watkins has a known track record of cutting corners — the D.C. Office of the Inspector General found that Watkins had persistent problems with employee screening and training when it was the contractor at the D.C. Schools several years ago.

Elsewhere, on May 31, the Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that USSA had settled a Title VII sexual harassment lawsuit that the agency brought in 2009. Under terms of the settlement, reached in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, USSA has entered into a 42-month consent decree and must pay $1.95 million to seven women who – according to the EEOC suit – were subject to “unwelcome sexual demands, demeaning gestures, inappropriate touching and other sexually offensive conduct.”

Now all eyes are on the Gray administration to see a solicitation is promptly put out so that a new, responsible contractor may be awarded the work.

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