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W-B City Hall security firm stirs questions

Some city council members are concerned about Hawkeye Security.

WILKES-BARRE – City council members are questioning why a nonprofit company is being run out of City Hall.

Hawkeye Security Solutions, founded in 2008, is creating a video surveillance system throughout Wilkes-Barre to “enhance public safety” according to the company’s Web site. In the city, Hawkeye will select the camera vendor that will purchase and install the camera system and install it.

But Hawkeye’s telephone number, listed on its Web site, rings at City Hall at the desk of Lou Lau, the city’s informational technology director. Lau referred questions to city administrator J.J. Murphy, administrative coordinator Bridget Giunta or Mayor Tom Leighton.

Kathy Kane, council vice chairwoman, Bill Barrett and Mike Merritt met with Murphy Friday to get answers to several concerns about Hawkeye. Murphy has also met with council Chairman Tony Thomas Jr. and Councilman Rick Cronauer.

Barrett said he is concerned about the use of city employees during regular business hours. He said he didn’t know why a city hall staff member’s phone number would be posted on the Hawkeye Web site.

“I’m sure the mayor will address that,” Barrett said. “Council wants to assure that there is a separation of hours from city business and Hawkeye Solutions business. We want to make sure that what is being done is legal and ethical.”

Leighton said the city employees involved with Hawkeye are working with the mayor’s knowledge and approval. He said all of the employees involved work far more hours than what is required on behalf of the city.

“I don’t want this to fail,” Leighton said. “This is a citywide project being undertaken by Hawkeye that will make our city safer.”

Leighton said the city’s attorneys recommended the non-profit corporation be set up for liability purposes. He said Murphy and Lau and others will get paid as consultants for performing duties for Hawkeye. The stipends will be paid from gaming funds that will be awarded to the city and then transferred to Hawkeye as the sub-recipient.

“If I wasn’t satisfied, I’d be the first to stop it,” Leighton said.

Members of the Hawkeye board of directors are: Murphy who makes $78,757 as city administrator; Laura Brace, retired deputy city controller; city patrolman James Fisher, whose base salary from the city is $49,198; Lau, information technology director, paid $62,832 from the city; and Phil Latinski, retired city councilman.

Christine Jensen, the city’s human resources director, said she did not know who Hawkeye Security Solutions is and said she needed to look into the matter before she could offer any comment. She could not say if any of the employees involved with Hawkeye were in violation of any city policies.

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