SANTA FE – A Santa Fe city councilor is standing up against one of the world’s largest security companies.
Renee Villarreal has twice voted against approving a contract extension with G4S Secure Solutions (USA) Inc., to provide uniform security services at city facilities, including city hall, convention center, municipal court, libraries, parking lots and airport.
On Monday, Villarreal had the item pulled from the council Finance Committee’s consent agenda to express her opposition to the one-year, $487,000 contract. She said the company has participated in civil and human rights abuses around the world, has a poor track record managing prison facilities in such places as Israel and Palestine, had engaged in overbilling practices in Miami-Dade County, Fla., and was currently providing security for the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“I shall not be supporting this,” Villarreal said of the contract, drawing an ovation from an audience of more than 100 people, most of whom were in the council’s chambers to support a separate measure, a resolution Villarreal co-sponsored defending the rights of undocumented immigrants.
G4S, a U.S.-based, British-owned company originally known as Wackenhut Corp., is contracted with the Department of Homeland Security to help with border protection operations and assist the Immigration and Customs Enforcement with transports.
The immigration resolution Villarreal is co-sponsoring calls for city officials to not cooperate in enforcement of federal immigration laws by refusing access to non-public city property to federal immigration agents and to not honor ICE detainer requests. It was endorsed by the Finance Committee Monday night.
G4S, which employs more than 600,000 people and has a presence in more than 100 countries, drew unwanted attention last summer when it came to light that the shooter in the massacre that killed 49 people and wounded dozens of others at an Orlando, Fla. nightclub had worked for G4S for nine years. Centerra Group, formerly G4S Government Solutions, has the Los Alamos National Laboratory security contract.
At Monday’s meeting, councilors Michael Harris, Peter Ives and Signe Lindell voted to approve the G4S contract. Harris said he based his vote on a line in a staff memo that said a city site managers who oversee security operations at various locations around town gave the company’s managers and security guards “a solid B+” for performance.
Santa Fe city government has had issues with its security contracts in recent years. The city used to contract with Chavez Security, Inc., owned by former city councilor Peso Chavez.
That company was disqualified from the bidding process in 2015 by submitting what the deemed to be an “unresponsive” bid. Another company, AAA Security, provided the service to the city for a while, then abruptly backed out.
Blackstone Security Services ended up fulfilling the final two months of the contract with AAA before G4S was awarded the contract in December 2015.