- The Washington Times - Monday, June 6, 2005

The District has hired to protect its public schools a private security company that has had difficulty paying its bills and has more than $1 millions in liens against it for unpaid taxes, financial records show.

The D.C.-based company, Hawk One Security Inc., successfully bid on a $15.1 million-per-year contract to post guards in city schools until the 2007-2008 school year.

In addition, the company recently took over a separate $14.2 million-per-year contract to protect about 100 other D.C. government buildings, including the John A. Wilson Building that houses the offices of the mayor and the D.C. Council.

Hawk One President Tyrone Thompson yesterday downplayed what he estimated to be more than $1 million in liens that his company owes to the Internal Revenue Service. He said Hawk One had owed about $8 million as a result of liens incurred more than a decade ago, which he blamed on previous management.

“We’re a very financially stable company,” Mr. Thompson said. “We expect to be out of that hole in three months.”

He blamed the liens on “past troubles” that “directly correspond to when the District wasn’t paying us.”

Hawk One, one of three finalists bidding for the school security contract, is taking over from Watkins Security of D.C. Inc., which also was among the final bidders.

Oversight of the school security contract is being transferred from the school system to the Metropolitan Police Department because of criticism that school officials mishandled the Watkins contract. For nearly a year, Watkins was paid without approval by the D.C. Council.

Watkins officials yesterday said their company has been blamed for the school system’s contracting failures. “They needed someone to blame for the chaos in the District,” spokeswoman Donna Henry said.

The Metropolitan Police Department, which had strongly backed Hawk One’s hiring last month, had no comment yesterday on the company’s checkered financial past.

Edward D. Reiskin, deputy mayor for public safety, yesterday said city contracting officials looked into Hawk One’s finances before allowing it to compete for the school security contract, as they do with all major procurements.

“They saw the reports and saw there were issues,” he said. “They spoke to folks within the company and to other folks and … whatever concerns they had were not such that they felt the offerer could not put forth a bid and execute the contract. That’s how the offerer got through that hurdle.”

Hawk One has provided security under other city contracts for years, he said.

Competition for the new schools security contract was limited to businesses that have qualified for certification under the District’s Local, Small and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (LSDBE) program, which aims to encourage the government to hire local companies.

Fewer than a dozen security companies qualify for LSDBE certification in the District, according to a review of program records.

Margaret Poethig, deputy chief administrative officer for the Metropolitan Police Department, said in announcing schools’ security arrangements that the Hawk One contract will “result in a better trained, higher quality school safety work force.”

A key factor, she said, that led officials to pick Hawk One over other competing bidders was the company’s pledge to increase the pay of guards in the schools.

However, city and court records show that Hawk One has faced serious financial problems over the years.

Between 1996 and 2003, more than a dozen liens were filed against Hawk One by public and private entities, ranging from a $12,570 judgment filed by the Ford Motor Credit Co. to more than $1 million in federal income tax liens by the Internal Revenue Service.

Mr. Thompson said Hawk One is negotiating to close out liens of “a little over $1 million.” He said more recent liens stem from interest and penalties accumulated on old liens.

He said the company has secured a $20 million line of credit, but declined to provide further details about the financing arrangement.

Mr. Thompson said the company has purchased 17 vehicles for the school security contract and new uniforms. He said Hawk One plans to recruit new guards, but it will also rely on guards already employed by Watkins Security.

He said Hawk One has “very limited experience in schools” but has provided guards in some charter schools and hospitals.

“They all come with specialized needs, and its about adapting to those security needs,” Mr. Thompson said.

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