Sunday, July 05, 2009
UNM Security Fees Double
By Martin Salazar
Copyright © 2009 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer
The University of New Mexico is paying more than double the initial estimate to a politically connected firm it hired three years ago to provide security services for its main and south campuses.
In a memo recommending approval of the contract for Santa Fe Protective Services, UNM regents were informed the cost for the four-year contract was "estimated at approximately $500,000 a year."
But UNM paid the company more than $1 million for the 2007 calendar year and more than $1.1 million for 2008. The university is on pace to spend even more this year, having already paid the company more than $800,000.
The company supplements UNM's 31-person police force, which has a budget of $2.8 million, by providing security for such things as athletic events, parking lots and Zimmerman Library.
UNM President David Schmidly, who was hired after the contract was awarded, said the original $500,000 estimate was merely a starting point for negotiations and the total cost at the time was unknown.
Santa Fe Protective Services is owned by Butch Maki and his daughter, Christina Maki.
Butch Maki, a longtime friend of Gov. Bill Richardson, served as a congressional staffer for Richardson and was active in Richardson's campaign efforts in New Hampshire.
It's been a two-way relationship. Richardson has referred to Maki as the "go-to guy" and the governor was best man at Maki's wedding.
Despite the increase from the estimated cost, the contract has never been resubmitted to regents. UNM chief procurement officer Bruce Cherrin said while regents must authorize contracts over $500,000, they aren't required to sign off on contract amendments or increases in contract costs.
The current four-year contract expires in June 2010, and UNM plans to issue a request for proposals for security services this fall.
UNM's awarding of the contract to Santa Fe Protective Services was controversial. The company quoted the second highest rates of the eight bidders during the request for proposal process, and some of the unsuccessful companies have been critical.
"We knew it was political," said John Salazar, referring to himself and others who lost their UNM security contracts when Santa Fe Protective Services was selected.
"I don't have hard feelings. I was there for five years. But that's not the way to do it," he said.
Salazar owns Probus Security, which had been providing security for Zimmerman Library and for parking and transportation at UNM.
"The Governor had no knowledge of the contract," Richardson spokeswoman Alarie Ray-Garcia said. "Any suggestion to the contrary is absurd."
Butch Maki, listed as a director of Santa Fe Protective Services, was on vacation and unavailable for comment. Christina Maki, who is president of the company, issued a statement.
"We are committed to providing the highest quality of security, and we are proud of our reputation in meeting the needs of our community and business by providing unsurpassed onsite safety and security," she said.
In an e-mailed statement, Schmidly said he's confident that security expenses are being monitored carefully and UNM is getting the service for which it is paying.
Schmidly said the $500,000 estimate was merely a threshold amount.
"The university knew from the outset that athletics alone had spent around a half million dollars during the prior year," Schmidly said. "The most relevant cost factor is the hourly cost which was negotiated down, and not the total cost, which again was unknown."
At the time it won the UNM contract, Santa Fe Protective Services had already landed several high-profile security contracts, including one with the U.S. Air Force Academy.
The company's contract with UNM sets hourly rates for different types of security personnel, but it does not cap how much the company can bill the university.
The estimate provided to regents was contained in a Jan 3, 2006, memo from Cherrin to UNM Executive Vice President David Harris, who moved to UNM from a top Richardson administration post.
Cherrin said he's "not sure" where the initial $500,000 estimate came from, noting that estimating the total was difficult given that multiple companies had been providing security services at various UNM locations before the university decided to consolidate them under one contract.
And he said while the increased cost wasn't taken before regents, university administrators were apprised of the situation.
UNM's legal department said in a recent memo that because Santa Fe Protective Services is providing security on an "as needed" basis in addition to regular security, it wasn't possible to set in advance the total dollar value of services to be provided in any given year.
The company was hired through a request for proposals process initiated in 2005 after the university decided it wanted a single contractor providing security for its main and south campuses.
UNM Police Chief Kathy Guimond said the idea came from her department.
"For a number of years at UNM, officers had been running into a number of different contractors on campus," Guimond said. "And it got to the point where there were so many that we didn't know who was working where or when. There was absolutely no coordination."
Maki and his daughter have made thousands in campaign contributions to Richardson, in Maki's case both before and after the UNM contract was awarded.
Santa Fe Protective Services' shiny black Hummer was even spotted on the campaign trail in Amherst, N.H., during Richardson's bid for the presidency.
Regents awarded the contract in January 2006. Eighteen months later, the Hummer, which was sporting the company's logo and reportedly hauling campaign equipment, was shadowing Richardson's campaign in Amherst, more than 2,000 miles away.
Maki also donned patriotic attire and marched side-by-side with the governor during a 2007 Independence Day parade in Amherst.
Critics have complained there has been an increase in political patronage, cronyism and nepotism since Richardson was elected governor in 2002, with much of that criticism aimed at Harris.
Earlier this year, after faculty voted no confidence in three of the university's top leaders — including Harris — faculty member Richard Wood told the Journal he felt the vote sent a clear message that treating UNM like a corporation or "political patronage machine" undermines what the university does for students.
Regents are appointed by the governor.
A Journal review of the UNM security contract found:
• Of the eight companies that responded to UNM's request for proposals, the winning company quoted the second-highest rates.
• UNM agreed to fork out up to $13,500 for upfront costs associated with buying uniforms for employees of Santa Fe Protective Services. It also loaned the company radios for communication until it was able to purchase its own.
• A company that had handled security for UNM athletics for about 15 years claimed in an unsuccessful protest the company's UNM contacts advised it to bid as it always had, even though the contract was to provide security for the entire campus.
• Within seven months of getting the contract, Santa Fe Protective Services switched insurance brokers to Daniels Insurance Company. Jamie Koch, who was appointed to the UNM board by Richardson, was president of the regents when the contract was awarded, and he continues to be president of Daniels Insurance.
Schmidly commissioned a review by the Office of University Counsel after the Journal made inquiries.
"Based on this review, the procurement process for awarding the SFPS contract appears to be in order and to have followed university procurement policies..." University Counsel Patrick Apodaca and Associate University Counsel Anne Murray wrote in a June 23 memo to Schmidly.
But the memo also states that "An investigation concerning whether the SFPS award was improperly influenced by a university official is beyond the scope of our review, as our legal review has been generally limited to pertinent documents."
The memo, however, goes on to state Apodaca and Murray have gained no knowledge of any specific allegation of undue influence.
Cherrin said the process was clean.
"This was a regular RFP (request for proposals)," Cherrin said. "The evaluation committee operated as it should, and it was properly scored."
Among the six people on the evaluation committee was Chief Guimond. She said she came to the selection process with no preference for which company should get the contract and said there was no pressure to choose a particular firm.
Guimond said she doesn't recall whether Santa Fe Protective Services was her top choice. UNM released a document to the Journal showing a compilation of scores given to each company that submitted proposals. Santa Fe Protective Services received the highest overall score of nearly 72, beating its closest competitor by about 2.7 points.
Though it scored poorly on price, the company received the top score in the category of capability, performance, resources and experience, earning 31 of 40 possible points.
"There's no company that's ever going to be perfect. ..." Guimond said when asked about the company's performance. She said being in charge of the security operation has been challenging for her department because of the significant work involved, but added that having a single security contractor has allowed her department to take a more active role in keeping the campus safe.
About seven months after regents voted to award UNM's security contract to Santa Fe Protective Services, the company switched part of its insurance business to Daniels Insurance Company.
Jamie Koch of Santa Fe is president of Daniels Insurance and at the time was president of the regents. Daniels Insurance became the company's broker for auto liability and workers compensation and employers' liability.
Koch said the awarding of the UNM contract and the company's decision to go with Daniels Insurance were unrelated. He said he doesn't feel there is a conflict because the regents' vote on the security contract took place months before Daniels Insurance was providing insurance to the company.
Koch said he doesn't have an ownership interest in Daniels Insurance and doesn't receive commissions.
He said if the contract goes before regents again and Daniels Insurance is still providing its coverage, he would be obligated to disclose the relationship to regents.
"If there's a conflict, I don't know where it is," he said.
After the Journal contacted him, Koch requested a review from UNM's Office of University Counsel. Apodaca, UNM's chief attorney, said his office determined there was no violation of UNM's conflict policy.