Wednesday, January 31, 2007

WHO'S PROTECTING YOUR KIDS?

The Background
When the school season began for Elyria High last September they were plagued with many high profile fights and disturbances in and around the area of the school. In one case a worker in the cafeteria sustained fractured ribs while trying to break up a fight. The largest fight, involving about 2 dozen students, was on Middle Ave. near Sederis. That fight drew a dozen Elyria Police Officers to break it up and disperse the very large crowd that had assembled to watch. In response to the fights the school system hired Whittguard Security services, a private security firm out of Lorain, to help control the problems. The Company was hired in November at a rate of $240.00 a day, providing 2 guards patrolling the hallways and a patrol car that would drive around the building and neighborhood. Neighbors had complained to school officials about the fights and students loitering in general. Elyria High has a program called “Open Lunch” which allows older students to leave the school and get lunch from area restaurants alleviating the overcrowding in the school’s cafeteria.

The Security Personnel
TMC NEWS
was approached a couple weeks ago with concerns about the security personnel working for Whittguard. It was discovered that several of the security guards have criminal records. On the Whittguard company website they claim the following:
“All of our officers have had extensive background checks by the State of Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation and are drug tested and fingerprinted upon date of hire.”

Our staff took some of the employee’s names from Whittguard and reviewed court records in Elyria and Lorain Municipal Courts as well as the Lorain County Common Pleas Court. We found that several of the employees have criminal records involving Domestic Violence, DUI, Assaults, Resisting Arrest and others. We have listed some of the information that we found.

Edward J. Garza was arrested on November 12, 2005 by the Lorain County Sheriff’s Department for Theft. Elyria Municipal Court issued a Warrant for Mr. Garza for “failure to appear” in relation to this case on September 7, 2006. That warrant was served on Mr. Garza while on duty with Whittguard Security.

Speer, Ernest
January 31, 1999 arrested by the Elyria Police Department for Assault, Disorderly Conduct and persisting.
May 25, 1999 arrested by the Elyria Police Department for Domestic Violence
September 29, 1999 arrested by the Elyria Police Department for telephone harassment.
November 25, 1999 arrested by the Elyria Police Department for Unauthorized use of plates and driving under suspension.
March 11, 2001 arrested by the Elyria Police Department for assault and disorderly conduct.
February 24, 2004 arrested by the Elyria Police Department for assault and domestic violence.
January 6, 2004 arrested by the Lorain County Sheriff’s Department for Unauthorized use of plates, expired plates and contempt.

Speer, John
January 1, 2006 arrested by the Elyria Police Department for resisting arrest and assault on a Police Officer. In this incident Elyria Police Officers were trying to arrest Speer’s brother on a warrant when John began fighting with them. Police had to use pepper spray to help subdue Speer.

Taylor, George W
Mr. Taylor’s record is filled with traffic offences including, driving with no plates, driving under suspension, running a red light, failure to control, DUI 10% or more and no lighted plates. All arrests were made by the Lorain Police Department.


Whittguard Response
TMC NEWS and NewsChannel 5 went to the home office of Whittguard Security in Lorain to speak with James Whitt; the owner of Whittguard. Mr. Whitt welcomed us into his home and discussed the situation at length. When asked about the employees who have criminal records he said that most are minor misdemeanors or misdemeanor charges and not felonies. Whitt went onto say that some of the issues that we brought to his attention were new to him. Whitt said that in the state of Ohio you can work as a security guard as long as you do not have a felony charge. One employee had a felony he said but had it expunged from his record. “Everyone is entitled to have a felony expunged from their record once in their lifetime.”

Whitt said that the two men he has working at the Elyria High School site have clean records, with the exception of a DUI and other traffic related offences.
“I will review all of the documents you have shown me today and review all the records of our employees and where action is needed such as suspension or termination I will do it.”

Whitt invited us back to visit with him to follow up on the actions he has taken and changes that he will make within his company. TMC NEWS will take him up on that offer.
School Response
When we sat with Superintendent Paul Rigda he explained to us how the process worked when the schools first hired Whittguard Security. “We wanted to make sure that the two guards placed in the building would fit certain requirements, we wanted people who would work well with the kids, people who were not overly aggressive and could control situations in the building. So far the feed back that we have received from our staff and from the school resource officer has been very positive toward the security guards.” When asked what would happen if one of those two guards called in sick and a replacement was needed Mr. Rigda said that was covered in the initial agreement with Whittguard. “If one of the two guards that work in our building call in sick then we have asked that Mr. Whitt himself cover that person, the other option instead of bringing in a different guard that we were not familiar with was to just drop down to one guard that day.”

Before the two guards were placed in the building at Elyria High School the Superintendent said he reviewed the employee’s applications to Whittguard and even though Mr. Whitt had shown verification of the guards certifications and back ground checks, the school contacted the state of Ohio to double check and to get a better understanding of what the certifications meant. “It’s not that we didn’t trust Mr. Whitt, it’s just that we wanted to double check and to also get a better understanding of what all the numbers meant.”

When asked what the future holds for the relationship between the Elyria City Schools and Whittguard Security Mr. Rigda said that they will review the contract but to say now that things will change is premature. “I will say that although we are happy with the guards that are working within our building, it would concern me if the company (Whittguard) did not have the same stringent requirements for their employees company wide, so that is something that we will look at and discuss with Mr. Whitt.”

TMC NEWS will continue to follow this story and bring you an update in a couple of weeks after we speak again with Mr. Whitt. For more on this story, tune in tonight to NewsChannel 5 at 6 and 11.


3 Comments:

Anonymous LINDA IN ELYRIA said...

THANK YOU FOR THIS INFORMATION. I GUESS WE AS PARENTS SHOULD NOT BE SO TRUSTING OF OUR SCHOOL OFFICIALS WHO ARE IN CHARGE. THESE ARE THE SAME PEOPLE WHO WOULD LIKE TO SEE A NEW HIGH SCHOOL BUILT. THEY HAVE NOT DONE THEIR HOMEWORK VERY WELL AND WE AS TAX PAYERS ARE PAYING FOR THESE EMPLOYEES. IS THE HOMEWORK ON THE NEW HIGH SCHOOL AS INCOMPLETE AS HIRING THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE AROUND OUR KIDS? SHAME ON OUR SCHOOL OFFICIALS. THERE IS A REASON WHY MANY PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE DO NOT SEND THIER KIDS TO EHS EVEN THOUGH THEY LIVE IN THIS CITY. GOOD LUCK ON THAT NEW HIGH SCHOOL YOUR GOING TO NEED IT. THANK YOU TMC FOR BRINGING THIS TO ALL OUR ATTENTION.

12:21 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Great article TMC. I'm glad that some of the underlying issues that the Elyria Schools have been brushing under the rug are now starting to see the light. The people who make these decisions are also the people that want to reach deeper into our pockets to build a school that is 5 million light years out of our league. This district has never taken care of what they already have. Why fix anything that's wrong when you can just go to the taxpayers to get something new? Wrong attitude in my opinion. Fiscal responsibility is something these educators need to be educated about. It's nice to know that my tax dollars are paying criminals to watch the kids. Nice, very nice.

10:09 AM  
Anonymous jason said...

hey, every felon needs a job. and who better to employ them, but an already challenged school system. next best thing would be to have a few homes for emotionally disturbed adults around the campus. oh wait there already is. hmm, i guess they've covered everything. new school? how about focusing on the real issues, a school isn't made up of bricks, it's made up of teachers and students. and a new state of the art school can still be part of a bad school system. this is one of those exceptions to the rule"if you build it they will come," not so.
go pioneers!

5:40 PM  

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