Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's privatization of courthouse security drew fire Thursday, with disclosures of much smaller savings than had been announced and a criminal history of the former head of the newly hired private security force.
The savings, pegged by Walker's staff last fall at more than $750,000 a year, now are estimated at $411,000.
Walker ordered Chad H. Wegener dumped from the G4S Wackenhut
private security team late Wednesday, after learning of Wegener's five misdemeanor convictions in 2004, when he left his job as chief of the Manawa Police Department. A criminal complaint against Wegener, 37, accused him of drinking while armed and disorderly conduct, including sexual overtures to male subordinates in the department.
County Supervisor Johnny Thomas criticized the privatization move, saying criminal background checks were flawed and could have exposed courthouse visitors to danger. Jack Takerian, the county's interim public works director, said it was Wackenhut's responsibility to do its "litany of background checks."
Thomas said county officials should have done more to find out about the detail of Wegener's convictions. According to court records, Wegener pleaded no contest to the charges and was sentenced to 90 days in jail, with work-release privileges.
"You didn't follow up," Thomas told Takerian. "You can't blame Wackenhut - somebody has to take responsibility."
The criminal complaint against Wegener accused him of pressing subordinate officers to have drinks with him in his home, watch pornographic videos and Internet sites and of making unwanted sexual advances.
Wackenhut issued a statement saying Wegener had been placed on administrative leave. The firm said Wegener was cleared for a private security guard license by the state Department of Regulation and Licensing and that Wegener had a positive job recommendation from the City of Manawa.
The discrepancy in savings from the security privatization was due to a more precise method used for the $411,000 estimate done last month, said county budget director Steven Kreklow. The initial figure was done last year, when Walker tried to get the security outsourcing included in the 2010 budget. The $756,000 estimate was based on an average salary figure of county security guards, while the latest estimate was based on actual pay of the county's 27 laid-off guards, Kreklow said.
The County Board overrode a veto by Walker in November, a move that had the effect of canceling the county executive's courthouse security privatization as a cost-saving measure. Walker unilaterally ordered the privatization again last month, citing a budget emergency. The 2010 budget left a hole of more than $20 million and assumed savings from a series of employee concessions not yet obtained from most county unions.
The board's finance committee on Thursday also voted 4-2 to rescind Walker's layoffs of nine airport employees, a move that a county lawyer said the County Board lacked the authority to do. Walker was within the scope of his emergency budget authority in making the airport layoffs, said Deputy Corporation Counsel Mary Ann Grimes.
Supervisor John Weishan Jr. rejected that interpretation and said the board should go to court to press the point. The airport layoffs don't save the county any money and were aimed at punishing county unions, Weishan charged.
Guy James, President of the Federal Contract Guards of America FCGOA,
"the privatization of courthouse security awarded to G4S Wackenhut shows how the county can save money, however the need for tougher background checks of all private contract guards needs to be addressed at both the federal, state and county levels to ensure the safety of all who may enter these buildings are protected".
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TAGS: FCGOA, Federal Contract Guards of America, Wackenhut, privatization of security guards, court officers, G4S, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, private security force, Milwaukee County Courthouse, Manawa Police Department, Chad Wegener, Federal Protective Service, Security Police Unions, Security Guard Unions, Court Security Unions