BRADENTON -- By 3-2 vote after a contentious debate Tuesday, the Manatee County School Board approved a $1 million per year, three-year contract to provide armed security guards in 32 of 33 district elementary schools.
The request for proposal, which will serve as the contract, calls for guards to be deployed within 48 hours.
The issue has been a hot topic since the plan was announced at the end of July. A quick turnaround to a request for proposal process caused outcry from a board member and multiple companies pursuing the contract.
A five-person committee, which graded all bids, proposed to award the contract to Sarasota Security Patrol of Sarasota.
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The contract was approved by board Chairwoman Julie Aranibar, Karen Carpenter and Barbara Harvey after board members held a workshop on the topic and debated it during the course of the regular meeting.
"I cannot not vote for it," Harvey said.
Bob Gause and Dave "Watchdog" Miner voted against the proposal.
"I'm not sure, quite frankly, that we're having the right
conversation," Gause said. "We can debate this talk about this, there's a lot of divisiveness. I think that the discussion we're having is maybe the wrong discussion."
Gause said there are other ways to provide security.
Miner, a vocal critic from the start, said the marred process of finding a company won't increase public trust.
Two other companies vying for the contract complained about the district bid process prior to the vote. Representatives from Critical Intervention Services presented the district with a 28-page report criticizing the district bid process.
Miner's outspoken critique of the district plan caused officials from Sarasota Security Patrol to file a suggestion of disqualification with board attorney James Dye to have Miner removed from voting, indicating he possibly has a bias to the project as a whole.
Miner was not barred from voting.
In addition, Miner also brought up concerns with the company Tuesday, citing an arrest of owner Chad Ritchie in 1996 for impersonating a law enforcement official, a felony charge. Ritchie could not be reached after Tuesday's meeting for comment.
The Critical Intervention Services report also prompted complaints from staff attorney Mitchell Teitelbaum.
The report describes the steps company officials took to meet with district officials to raise concerns over the process. Teitelbaum got involved with the company when they showed up unannounced at district offices. The report calls Teitelbaum's conduct during the meeting "highly unusual, facially irregular and patently inappropriate."
The report references Teitelbaum telling a female staff member to "get (her) (expletive) into (his) office." Teitelbaum also said Troy Pumphrey, the district's professional standards investigator, was on the selection committee because the committee "needed color," according to the report
Teitelbaum denied the allegations to the Bradenton Herald on Monday and followed those denials with an email to board members Tuesday.
"Never in my 24 years of practice, have I seen such baseless accusations and character assassinations," Teitelbaum wrote.
In his email to the board, Teitelbaum said his "legal recourse against this company and any others that disseminated or republished this letter in whole or part are well preserved."
Beth Sharp Tolly, a buyer and manager in the purchasing department, said the accusations against Teitelbaum were false.
"I have never heard him say anything like that," she told the Bradenton Herald on Tuesday. "I have no idea where that came from."
Meghin Delaney, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081. Follow her on Twitter @MeghinDelaney.