Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Audit Is New Twist in Armed- Guard Saga

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Audit Is New Twist in Armed- Guard Saga

Article excerpt


MANATEE: Questions persist over the contract selection and screening process

The Manatee County School District will conduct an audit that will include the contract selection process for a Sarasota company to place armed security guards at elementary schools.

Superintendent Rick Mills said Tuesday night that accountant Byron Shinn of Shinn & Co. would be asked to conduct the audit. It's another twist in a controversy over the placing of armed guards in 31 of 33 district elementary schools.

"I am aware of many of the concerns the community has about the contract selection and screening," Mills said.

The whole process has been fraught with questions, including whether the bidding process was too rushed and violated state law, and whether the process benefited Sarasota Security Patrol Inc. intentionally.

The security company has worked with the district in the past, and it listed the office of professional standards investigator Troy Pumphrey as a reference.

On Aug. 20, a committee selected by the district recommended that Sarasota Security Patrol Inc. be awarded a three-year contract worth $3 million. That meeting could be a violation of the state's open government laws as it was not advertised to the public. It is unclear if any minutes, which are required by law for public meetings, were kept.

The vote to approve the contract was conducted on Sept. 9 with Karen Carpenter, Julie Aranibar and Barbara Harvey voting in favor and Bob Gause and David Miner voting against and asking for more time to discuss the issue. Miner, in particular, has been a vocal opponent of the process and on Tuesday night he made a motion for the issue to be discussed further as part of "old business."

Mills also said Tuesday night that a letter seeking clarification of a state statute was mailed earlier in the day to the office of state Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Florida law says that school safety officers must be law enforcement officers and employees of either a law enforcement agency or a district school board. …

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