Security company’s predecessor marred

by Jordan Green

Greensboro’s security director recommended extending the city’s contract with Lankford Protective Services despite some concerns about the local security company’s record-keeping procedures. The city had terminated a contract with a previous vendor after alleging a host of abuses and deficiencies, and the new security company was thought to be the city’s best option. “I think we have come a long way in improving the service we are currently receiving, and have established a positive understanding with LPS on our expectations,” wrote Security Director Michael Speedling in a Jan. 29, 2008 e-mail obtained from the city. “I have taken a look at 5 other companies in the local area and I don’t think they are capable of giving us the same service we are currently receiving.” Speedling said in a recent interview that officers assigned by Lankford Protective Services to city facilities would write reports that lacked complete identification information in some cases, and leave out crucial information such as the date and time on others. Speedling said he had also been concerned with mentoring, and implemented a requirement for security officers to receive training for each site by working under a more experienced employee for three shifts before working the site on their own. Despite the reforms pursued by Speedling, Officer Byron Wayne Meadows failed to document an incident in which he detained and questioned a Greensboro Transit Authority passenger last July. Meadows was accused of assaulting Russell Kilfoil in an incident captured on surveillance video. One of Meadows’ colleagues corroborated Kilfoil’s statement to a city human relations investigator that Meadows told the young man to throw away a piece of paper after he tried to write down a security officer’s name. A second officer told the investigator that Meadows placed a finger on lips when asked what transpired between him and Kilfoil. Meadows has been banned from working at city facilities. He had an administrative hearing for an assault charge brought by Kilfoil on Jan. 29. A Guilford County Sheriff’s deputy posted at the courtroom door said the hearing was closed to the public by order of the judge. The county court website mentions no pending court dates for Meadows. Last month, he beat a similar charge brought by another transit passenger at the Depot when the alleged victim fled the courtroom after being informed that a warrant was out for his arrest — also for assault. Lankford Protective Services won the city security contract over rival Wackenhut Corp. in 2005. Two city employees who reviewed bid proposals for the security contract recommended awarding the contract to Lankford Protective Services. Greensboro police Capt. Matt Lojko, then commander of the department’s division of professional standards, wrote in an e-mail that Lankford Protective Services deserved the contract because of its significantly lower cost, comparable service level and local ownership. Lojko retired months later in the midst of an investigation by an outside consulting firm contracted by the city into administrative practices under then-Chief David Wray. Lankford Protective Services also received a positive review by city accountant Anita B. Wilson, who noted with approval that more than half of the security company’s assets were comprised of cash and savings. A look at Wackenhut’s finances, in contrast, didn’t inspire a “glowing review,” in Wilson’s opinion. “I don’t doubt they are financially stable enough for us to have a comfortable level,” she wrote in an e-mail. “However, I didn’t get a great feeling from their bank reference letter. The statement is, ‘Currently, our relationship is in a positive standing’ — which leaves open the question, what about previously?” Lankford Protective Services inherited the contract from Kimber Guard & Patrol. The city dropped the security company, citing a litany of complaints about its performance, including incidents of improper billing, abandonment of post, failure to accommodate disabled citizens, and verbal and physical abuse of citizens.

In a May 2005 letter notifying President Odessa G. Kimber of the city’s decision to terminate the company’s contract, city Central Facilities Manager Fred K. Ridge described an incident that foreshadowed in some ways the Meadows episode of July 2007. “On January 31, 2005, staff of Kimber Security acted unprofessionally by screaming threats and cursing wildly while lunging at a citizen that was handcuffed due to consuming an alcoholic beverage near the bus terminal at the Depot,” Ridge wrote. “One of your staff, Sgt. Goins, had to be restrained by other security guards to stop him from attacking the citizen that was handcuffed. Your company should have informed the city of the aforementioned incident on January 31. But the incident on January 31 was brought to my attention from the city’s police department.” Ridge also alleged that the company improperly billed the city for $3,966 in 2004 and 2005, and failed to reimburse the city for $647 in damages to a city-owned vehicle driven by a Kimber employee. The city documented five separate “serious performance issues” in the month of April 2005 alone, including leaving postsunattended at the Melvin Municipal Office Building and the GreensboroCultural Center, and allowing an employee that had been previouslybanned to work on city property. Speedling said he had theoption of extending Lankford Protective Service’s contract for anadditional year after it expires in June, but decided to put it out forbid.“That’s to the benefit of Lankford,” he said. “They haven’t gotten anincrease in four years, but gas prices and insurance costs have goneup. This gives them an opportunity to participate in the biddingprocess and possibly negotiate a higher price.” Speedling saidhe has developed higher and more specific standards for the bidspecifications that he hopes to present at a staff meeting later thismonth.