- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 30, 2005

A panel of judges, citing lapses in the way the District awarded its school security contract, is ordering city officials to rebid the contract or to re-evaluate the offers submitted by the two finalists.

The D.C. Contract Appeals Board has ruled that city officials failed to follow contracting rules and disregarded information in awarding the two-year, $30.1 million contract to D.C.-based Hawk One Security Inc. That contract took effect July 1.

Among other problems, the board said that there were questions about whether Hawk One had enough management experience.

Hawk One won the contract held by Watkins Security Agency of D.C. Inc. In turn, Watkins filed a protest with the appeals board, challenging the award and citing widespread bidding improprieties.

“If the contracting officer determines that Watkins should have received the award, the contract with Hawk One should be terminated and award made to Watkins,” the judges wrote.

The board’s ruling was handed down late Monday as students headed back to school. The decision throws into doubt which private security company will ultimately protect tens of thousands of students this school year.

D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement spokeswoman Janis Bolt said yesterday the ruling would have “no immediate impact” on the current contract with Hawk One.

Miss Bolt said Hawk One will continue to provide security while contracting officials review the ruling and re-evaluate the best and final offers for the security contract.

Attorneys representing Watkins were pleased with the ruling.

“The board said in its ruling that the District just did not follow the rules,” said Dirk Haire, an attorney for Watkins.

Previously, Watkins officials have said the District steered the contract away from Watkins. The company said it was being used as a scapegoat for lapses in the city’s contracting process.

Watkins held the security contract from 2003 until July. The company filed an earlier protest that criticized how the District handled the bidding process. It deposed several city officials in connection with the case.

In one deposition, a Metropolitan Police Department official who oversaw the contract selection panel said she asked her superiors not to assign her the task because she lacked experience.

The ruling is the latest in a string of setbacks in the District’s handling of school security. The D.C. Office of the Inspector General recently found that the Metropolitan Police Department was licensing some security guards who had lied about their criminal backgrounds.

Police officials have since said they are cracking down on that problem and have dismissed several security guards.

The Contract Appeals Board is currently made up of Chief Administrative Judge Jonathan D. Zischkau, Administrative Judge Warren J. Nash and Administrative Judge Matthew S. Watson, a former D.C. auditor.

The board consists of a chairman and up to four members who are licensed to practice law in the District. The members must be D.C. residents who are experienced in procurement and contract law, and they are appointed by the mayor with the advice and consent of the D.C. Council.

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