Competitor levels fire at contract over library’s armed security
Kenneth Smith, chair of the Ward 1 Democratic City Committee, isn’t pleased that a recent bid for security at the Warwick Public Library was awarded to Warwick Security and Investigative Service, Inc., instead of Madison Security Group.
The bid, which was voted on recently by the Library’s Board of Trustees, was unanimously approved 11-0 for armed security.
“If they had an armed officer outside of City Hall, I’d understand,” said Smith, who works as a full-time guard for Madison Security Group, which serves the Department of Labor and Training, the Woonsocket Registry of Motor Vehicles and the Pawtucket Public Library, in addition to other entities.
“The Pawtucket Public Library is a non-armed station. If we have non-armed security there, why do we have it at the Warwick Public Library? It’s ludicrous. With all the money problems the city of Warwick has, how do they vote $7,000 more than the other contract?”
But Stephanie Carter, chair of the Board of Trustees, said Smith’s figure doesn’t apply to armed security. Rather, the difference in terms of armed services is $1,299 for “more qualified” services. The Library annually requires 1,299 hours, and the separate bids for armed security were $1 in difference.
While Warwick Security bid $25 per hour for armed services, Madison submitted two bids, one for $24 per hour for armed services, and $18.95 per hour for unarmed. Warwick Security charges $32,475 for the whole year, while Madison would have charged $31,176. Unarmed services would have totaled $24,616.05, a difference of $7,858.95 when compared to Warwick Security’s bid.
Smith, who said the company placed the armed bid in anticipation of Warwick Security’s armed bid, claims the contract did not specifically call for armed services. He believes the Board awarded the contract mainly because they are more familiar with retired Warwick Police Major Thomas Nye, who purchased Warwick Security in 2008 and serves as president. The Library is Nye’s sole client.
According to Carter, the Board selected Warwick Security based on qualifications and experience. Safety was also a factor, she said, noting that armed security presence offers more protection to patrons.
Incidents that have occurred at the Library have involved replica guns, knives, health issues including heart attacks, plus Internet infractions. In 2010, a man exposed himself in the Library.
“We thought that Warwick Security was the best fit for us at the Library,” said Carter. “We talked about the wide variety of people who come in and out of the doors at the Warwick Public Library and the situations that arise. When we were looking at qualifications, the unarmed security being offered by Madison Security Group simply required a high school diploma or GED and a BCI check. We wanted someone with additional experience.”
But Smith said Madison Security is just as qualified, if not more qualified, than Warwick Security. He also pointed out that a city ordinance drafted by Ward 3 Councilwoman Camille Vella-Wilkinson, which the Warwick City Council approved last year, states that contracts should be awarded to the lowest qualified and responsible bidder.
“How do you tell Madison Security they are not qualified? They have about 100 employees and provide security to all state contracts,” said Smith. “They’ve got to be doing something right. I get upset when an entity says they can award the bid to whoever they want. I get perturbed when I see abuse. It has to stop somewhere.”
Nye, who began working at the Warwick Police Department (WPD) more than 35 years ago and retired with the rank of Major in 2009, has at least 22 years of experience performing security at the Library. Before becoming an officer, he worked as a security manager for a few years, and was an intern at the West Warwick Police Department through college. He agrees with Carter – and the rest of the Board – that armed security is necessary.
He went on to say that the Library has had armed security since the late 1970s, with the exception of a short period of time from 2010 to 2011, when another private security company served there. The facility had police detail up until 2009, but budget restraints caused a cut.
Considering recent shootings in Connecticut and Colorado, Nye feels arming security guards is essential to protecting citizens and deterring potential crime. He also said being a retired officer is beneficial to keeping peace at the Library, as many citizens recognize him and retired officer Dave Perri, who along with Nye serves as a guard for Warwick Security.
“There’s recognition there between the kids and the adults,” Nye said. “We’re not only here to deter incidents, we’re also here as people the teens can go to that they trust. I have a lot of interaction with the public. Everybody’s friendly and we give it that secure atmosphere. And we have a connection with police, fire, public works [and] social services.”
Nye said he spends a great deal of time monitoring youths and teenagers who flock to the Library at the end of each school day. Even during the summer, they often attend the Library.
“Teens from all over the city, not just this area, and even from Providence, come here right after school,” Nye said. “Some of them take buses that drop them off and they’re here until closing at night. They have armed security in schools and this is no different because this is just a continuation of their day.”
In addition to providing security, Nye has created general orders and designed and maintained the surveillance system, among other things, for the Library. He regularly equips the staff, including Director Diana Greenwald, with police statistics listing all incidents at the facility.
“I can tell you month-to-month how many people have been ejected, banned, if we’ve issued no trespassing orders to the WPD, whether they’ve violated the conduct code of the library [and] special incidents in the teen room,” said Nye. “I don’t know of another company that would do that. [Greenwald] knows what’s happening in this Library.”
Nye also designed floor plans for emergency evacuations, which have been used with the state disaster program, put together a library response guide and handled training programs for employees. He’s instructed staff members about the appropriate steps to take when dealing with violent intruders, plus the proper use of fire extinguishers and exits.
“It’s so much more than just a uniformed security officer walking around the building that my company has been able to provide the Library,” Nye said, also noting that he gave the Library ideas for the placement of security cameras.
“It’s almost 24-hour coverage. Even when I’m not here, I have the ability to go back and view any problems,” he said.
Smith said he is privy to the areas in which the cameras are set up and doesn’t approve of the locations Nye suggested. He also feels the Board, along with Greenwald, were uninformative and dismissive at the meeting.
“I asked why we have armed security at the Warwick Public Library,” Smith said. “I think that’s a pretty reasonable question. The answer I got back from Diane was, ‘because that’s what I prefer.’ I don’t really care what she prefers.”
Carter said she doesn’t recall Greenwald saying anything of the sort. In fact, Nye believes Smith was the one who behaved inappropriately.
“I think that Mr. Smith was unprofessional [and] unethical,” said Nye. “I’m surprised that he would represent the Democratic Committee. I would certainly hope that his security company was not aware that he was here representing them the way he portrayed himself.”
He also thinks Smith had an axe to grind, and wonders what his true intensions were.
“I think somebody put him up to this,” Nye said, refusing to go into further detail.
Smith, who ran for the Ward 1 council seat twice in the past, losing to now Mayor Scott Avedisian and Sue Stenhouse, an employee at the governor’s office, said that’s not true.
“I don’t have an axe to grind,” he said. “I’m talking as a private citizen. I just can’t accept the way things are. I think our taxes are high enough. If I’m wrong, tell me I’m wrong.”
As noted, Carter and Nye agree that Smith is incorrect. Nye said he only has the best interest of the Library at heart.
“I’m a citizen of this city, too, and this is a fantastic facility,” he said. “I personally don’t want to see it lose its attraction.”