Performance of D.C. schools' security contractor questioned

The performance of U.S. Security Associates (USSA), one of the security contractors hired to provide guard services to schools in Washington D.C., has come under scrutiny recently by city officials and a union. According to a press release issued by Service Employees International Union 32BJ, which represents property service workers on the East Coast including officers who work for the school districts other security provider Securitas, the D.C. City Council held a hearing earlier this month to discuss the company’s contract with the city.

"The opportunity for the city council to conduct thorough investigations into city contractors is necessary to prevent irresponsible companies from getting taxpayer money," Councilmember Phil Mendelson was quoted as saying in the release. "We are moving beyond the days of deals that reward poor performance. The District deserves accountability and that is what this hearing is about."

In August, the city council sent a letter to the city’s procurement officer expressing concerns over USSA reportedly failing to pass security penetration tests conducted by the Protective Services Division of the Department of Real Estate Services (DRES) and asked that its contract not be renewed.

"The DRES and DCPS contracts should not be renewed for their option years. New bid solicitations should immediately be issued for security services at both DRES' owned and leased properties as well as the D.C. Public Schools," the letter stated.

USSA contends, however, that its performance has been satisfactory and issued a statement regarding the recent hearing.

"Four District management personnel directly responsible for overseeing the contract testified that the performance by U.S. Security Associates has been satisfactory. A representative from a labor organization provided testimony and, when questioned by the Councilmember responsible for calling the hearing, confirmed she had no personal knowledge of the facts in her testimony. Nevertheless, U.S. Security Associates will provide a response to the erroneous facts while the record remains open. Additionally, two security officers testified; both focused on the fact that they wanted to earn higher wages. Wages provided to officers are governed by the services contract with the District. U.S. Security Associates will be providing information confirming how existing wages are consistent with contractual obligations," the statement said.

Although SEIU 32BJ represents Securitas guards, SEIU 32BJ Spokeswoman Julie Karant says the issue is about USSA’s job performance.


"We’re hoping when (USSA’s contract) comes up for renewal at the end of this month on February 28 that (the city council) will reject it and there’s no reason they can’t either put the contract out to bid or let the other, proven security contractor at the other schools take over this work," she said. "This is about (USSA), not Securitas. This company doesn’t benefit anybody, it’s wasting taxpayer dollars, puts our kids at risk and officers are being short changed."