- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2004

The D.C. Council is scrutinizing the city public school system’s $15.2 million per year agreement with a District-based private security firm.

The 65,000-student system agreed in July to pay Watkins Security Agency of D.C. Inc. $15.2 million annually for the next three years to post unarmed security guards in the city’s public schools.

The contract also includes a two-year option. But the deal — potentially worth more than $75 million — still requires council approval.

However, D.C. Council member Adrian Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat, said yesterday that council members did not receive a summary of the contract until last week, even though the firm has received millions of dollars.

“With all of the questions about security issues this year, I think we should pause before giving a company a $75 million contract,” Mr. Fenty said. “I have some big concerns about whether this contract is being effectively implemented.”

The Watkins contract has come under scrutiny since the shooting death of Ballou High School student James Richardson on Feb. 2 in a hallway near the cafeteria.

Police think the gun used to kill the 17-year-old was brought into the school through one of the more than 120 doors that lead in and out of the building. Only two doors had metal detectors.

Police said Ballou student Thomas Boykin, 18, shot James with a gun smuggled past the private security guards.

Richard A. Hamilton Sr., a former Metropolitan Police detective, is president and chief executive officer of the security agency, a subsidiary of the Watkins Group — a conglomerate of transportation, communication, fuel and security firms based in Baltimore.

An employee who answered the telephone said officials were not available for comment.

The firm has received more than $6 million since July, according to school system contracting and procurement records.

Mr. Fenty said contracts worth more than $1 million require D.C. Council approval.

“They’ve already spent over $1 million on this contract,” Mr. Fenty said. “If you spend over $1 million, you’re supposed to get council approval.”

School system officials could not be reached for comment yesterday evening.

Last month, D.C. school board member Tommy Wells said the school board would conduct its own review of the contract.

Four D.C. Council members — Mr. Fenty and fellow Democrats Kathy Patterson of Ward 3, Jack Evans of Ward 2 and Sharon Ambrose of Ward 6 — filed a motion of disapproval of the contract yesterday. The motion means that the council will have 15 days to consider the agreement.

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