OAKLAND -- A security firm competing for a $2 million annual city contract gave money to the campaigns of Oakland City Council members and candidates potentially in a position to grant them that contract, the city auditor said Tuesday.
The firm, ABC Security, has been staffing city-owned buildings, including City Hall, since the mid-1990s, and has donated hundreds of dollars to several council members during that time, records show. But the firm, and CEO Ana Chretien, donated a total of $1,800 to campaigns while actively seeking to renew that contract against nine competing firms. City Auditor Courtney Ruby said that is a violation of local campaign reform laws designed to keep the city's contracting honest and accountable.
Ruby said evaluations conducted by Oakland police, the Parks and Recreation Department and a Richmond city official ranked ABC fifth of the 10 firms. ABC rates are more expensive than the first-place finisher, Cypress Security, and the firm ranked lower in relevant experience, guard qualifications and other qualifications the council asked for in its request for bids.
Despite that, Councilmember Jane Brunner, who accepted a $350 donation from ABC while the firm was being evaluated, is recommending the city renew with ABC, saying the evaluations were vague and that ABC has done good work.
The council is expected to vote on the security contract at its April 5 meeting.
Brunner said she will return the money to ABC but declined to comment on why she thinks ABC's contract should be renewed because attorneys for Cypress have contacted the city and could be preparing a lawsuit.
Chretien did not immediately return phone calls seeking a comment.
Brunner said she has never voted for anything because of a campaign contribution, and certainly not for $350. She said she stands by her backing of ABC, though she is unsure whether she'll be allowed to vote on it now.
The city attorney declined to comment. Ruby has forwarded the case to the Public Ethics Commission.