Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Constables Inquiry under Way Housing Authority Criticized for How It Has Addressed Security Details

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Constables Inquiry under Way Housing Authority Criticized for How It Has Addressed Security Details

Article excerpt

The Pittsburgh Housing Authority on Tuesday announced "a full- scale internal investigation" into accusations that constables patrolling its communities submitted inaccurate reports, and City Controller Michael Lamb said his office likely will audit the controversial program for providing security at public apartment complexes.

The announcements of probes came after the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette reported that the authority's use of constables as supplemental security has been beset by contracting problems, legal concerns and accusations of false reporting.

"If it's borne out that there was overbilling, that's clearly something that has to be addressed and addressed quickly," said Mr. Lamb, whose office oversees the authority.

"This use of constables is of concern to me," he added. "I think it raises a lot of legal issues about what their authority is and how they can be used in this way."

The authority last month hired Carnegie-based Victory Security to provide constables or similarly trained professionals to improve safety in seven of its communities. The authority pays Victory Security $30.44 an hour for constable services, in a contract expected to cost $1.23 million over the first year.

Constable Brian Van Dusen, who managed the program for Victory Security until his termination on May 1, shared with the authority concerns over how constables were documenting the time they worked.

Mr. Van Dusen showed the Post-Gazette computerized reports filed by constables detailing daily activities, apparently completed and sent in hours before the ends of their eight-hour shifts. He also shared text messages written hours after his firing to authority safety director Joy Pekar-Miller, in which he alleged "over 35-50 instances of individuals lying" on activity reports and sign-in sheets required under the contract.

"It has been brought to our attention that a former supervisory employee of Victory Security alleged that fraudulent activities were taking place throughout the billing process," said a news release by authority Chief Community Affairs Officer Michelle Jackson. "These allegations, while not yet proven, are not being taken lightly. These accusations are taken seriously and we will follow up with the appropriate legal action if necessary. …

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