- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2005

The District’s $15.1 million contract award to Hawk One Security Inc. to post guards in city schools has been temporarily halted, after a legal challenge from the outgoing contractor that questions Hawk One’s finances and the contract selection process.

The D.C. Contract Appeals Board notified officials in the Office of Contracting and Procurement of the protest yesterday, citing city regulations that bar a contract from moving forward once a formal appeal has been filed.

Hawk One was set to start work in the schools on July 1 through a $15.1-million-per-year contract that runs through the 2006-07 school year. The company recently began work on a separate $14.2 million contract to guard about 100 city government buildings.

The District has 20 days to respond to the challenge by Watkins Security of D.C. Inc. The appeal cites Hawk One’s unpaid federal income taxes and previously undisclosed testimony by top school and police officials in seeking to overturn the contract award.

In a Nov. 18 deposition, the Metropolitan Police Department’s deputy chief administrative officer — Margaret Poethig, who headed the school security contract’s evaluation panel — noted several problems early in the contract selection process.

According to the deposition, Miss Poethig said she confronted Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey about misgivings.

She testified that she told Chief Ramsey “about how incredibly impossible and ridiculous this was and how I was not qualified, nor did I have the resources, nor did I think it was a good idea for numerous reasons to do it this way and please don’t make me do it and everything else.”

A police spokesman said Chief Ramsey was unavailable for comment yesterday.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Miss Poethig said she did not recall making the statement in her 61-page deposition. She was deposed in connection with a separate, pre-bid protest that Watkins filed last year.

Miss Poethig yesterday said she recently resigned from the police department and is taking a job in the Justice Department, adding that her resignation was not influenced by any concerns over the school system’s security contract.

“I think, in the end, we did an excellent job following the procurement process and evaluating the proposals,” she said yesterday.

Pam Satterfield, chief of staff for the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, yesterday said officials plan to challenge Watkins’ protest. She declined to comment on the case, saying city officials had just received the appeal yesterday.

A spokeswoman for Watkins yesterday said the company wants the Contract Appeals Board to overturn the Hawk One contract.

“They’ve awarded this contract to a company that is financially unstable at the very least,” Watkins spokeswoman Donna Henry said. “It’s a reflection to the degree they’ll go to prevent fair and competitive bidding.”

The school system’s security came under scrutiny after a student was fatally shot inside Ballou Senior High School in February 2004. Since then, the D.C. Office of the Inspector General has uncovered failures in the school system’s contracting office.

Watkins, which has handled school security since 2003, said in its legal filing that it should retain the contract because Hawk One owes more than $2 million in income taxes, according to a financial background check.

In an interview earlier this week, Hawk One President Tyrone Thompson estimated his company’s debt to the Internal Revenue Service at “a little over a million dollars.” He said that amount was down from more than $8 million. He told The Washington Times that the debt had been incurred under a previous management.

Mr. Thompson also said his company is financially stable after securing a line of credit of more than $20 million. He said the company will have paid off its debt in three months and is negotiating with the IRS.

He could not be reached for comment yesterday.

School system officials also have expressed concern about Hawk One’s finances.

In a May 31 letter to City Administrator Robert C. Bobb, schools Superintendent Clifford B. Janey said he and school board members were alarmed that a background check showed the company at a “high risk of severe payment delinquency over the next 12 months.”

Mr. Bobb sent a letter yesterday to Mr. Janey, saying city contracting officials performed financial background checks “in great detail” on Hawk One and its funding corporation.

“I take very seriously the safety of the children of the District of Columbia,” Mr. Bobb wrote. “Given all information provided, the award to Hawk One is in the best interest of the District.”

D.C. Council member Kathy Patterson, Ward 3 Democrat and chairman of the education committee, defended the Hawk One contract.

“This is one of the most thorough procurements done by the District,” she said, adding that the Watkins protest was not a surprise.

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