A $38 million security contract to guard Muni rail yards was approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, amid accusations of ethical lapses in the contract process.
“It doesn’t quite pass the smell test,” Supervisor Malia Cohen said of the contract at the board meeting.
The controversy swirled around the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s lead contract negotiator and director of security, Chris Grabarkiewctz. A prior employee of Cypress Security, he was given awards lauding his ability to generate great amounts of profit from his negotiating contracts with the SFMTA.
Now he serves the reverse role, negotiating contracts for the SFMTA with Cypress Security against its sole competing bidder, Andrews International.
The issue came to light after reporting by The San Francisco Examiner spurred an investigation by the City Attorney’s Office.
SFMTA Transportation Director Ed Reiskin said the City Attorney’s Office didn’t find ethics violations on the part of Grabarkiewctz, but John St. Croix of the Ethics Commission said such allegations were so rare that applicable laws may not yet exist.
The supervisors echoed this, saying new ethics laws may be needed. “There’s a question of legality, and a question of good practice,” Supervisor David Campos said at the board. “Having the individual that brought up the contract who was previously employed by the company, I don’t think it’s good public policy.”
“We can take the view that the law should be different, and that’s an appropriate path,” Supervisor Scott Wiener said. Supervisor Mark Farrell said “This process was a little strange.”
Reiskin told supervisors they could reform ethics laws, or the SFMTA may make its own rules to protect against alleged conflicts of interest. “To the extent that this [contract] procurement has raised issues, we may consider going above and beyond the law,” Reiskin told the board.
Reiskin was not immediately available for comment on what those changes may look like. No one at the board has yet put forward a proposal to reevaluate ethics laws.
Supervisor Jane Kim objected to the guards carrying guns, a concern supervisors dismissed. Campos told The Examiner that as important as that issue is, “it did take the focus away from the underlying flaw” in how the contract was managed.
The board voted 7-4 to approve the contract, with supervisors Campos, Cohen, Jane Kim and John Avalos dissenting.