- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Some private security officers in training for the company supplying guards to the D.C. public school system have had their paychecks bounce since Hawk One Security Inc. took over the two-year, $30.3 million contract last month.

Yesterday, company officials blamed the problem on an accounting mix-up, not a lack of cash.

“Financially, we’re strong,” said Patrick McRae, senior executive officer for Hawk One, which took over the contract from Watkins Security Agency of DC Inc. on July 1.

One D.C. Board of Education member yesterday said that she and others were already troubled by the company’s finances and that news of payroll problems does little to ease their concerns.

“It’s a company that has to be looked at very closely,” Board of Education Vice President Carolyn Graham said yesterday. “There’s no excuse. It gives me great concern. School is out right now. But when we start, one has to wonder about their readiness.”

Hawk One yesterday contacted the city school system in an attempt to ease the growing concerns that surfaced earlier this summer, before the company’s hiring. Schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey questioned city officials about a financial background check that showed the company had a poor credit rating and unpaid IRS tax liens.

Mr. McRae said Hawk One is getting stronger financially, guards are being trained and the company is close to a settlement to pay off its unpaid IRS taxes, which officials have blamed on a previous management team.

Since July, the Metropolitan Police Department has overseen the schools security contract.

Police yesterday did not respond to an inquiry about the matter by press time. The department is already under fire for a recent government audit that found some school security officers were licensed by the department despite having criminal records.

In response to the audit, police have said they’re looking more closely at guards’ backgrounds and dismissing those who slipped through the criminal records check — 10 so far.

Meanwhile, 12 to 14 prospective security officers in training for Hawk One were unable to cash their paychecks because of insufficient funds in a corporate account, Mr. McRae confirmed yesterday.

Mr. McRae said security officers in training get paid from a different account than an account funding the payroll of security officers on active duty under the contract.

“The money was there,” Mr. McRae said. “The checks were cut from one account, but the funds were in another.”

“When this was brought to our attention, we immediately told all employees they could take the checks back to the bank or we would recut a check and cover any nonsufficient funds charged to their accounts.”

So far, Hawk One has had three payroll cycles under the new schools security contract that began on July 1. Mr. McRae said the problems took place in the second pay cycle — about two weeks ago. He said it took several days to notice because most employees have direct deposit.

In training, security officers earn about $7 per hour before their salary increases to “about double that” when placed on active duty under the contract, Mr. McRae said.

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