Giddens employees unexpectedly lose jobs
Today, when Albert Bonito woke up, instead of putting on his Giddens Security uniform and heading to work, he reluctantly slipped into a new dress code. The uniform comes fresh pressed with uncertainty and a guarantee to provide zero pay. On this particular morning, Bonito dresses for unemployment.
Bonito is one of the many Giddens Security employees who unexpectedly lost their jobs last week when the Mayor of West Palm Beach, Keith James, and city commissioners awarded Professional Security Consultants (PSC) a nearly $8 million security contract.
Bonito, a Jamaican native, has lived in the United States for 13 years. He is the father of eight children, and his youngest child is only 3 years old. Mayor James’ reaction to Giddens employees’ pleas for a reconsideration made him lose a bit of his faith in those who hold public office.
“It’s just bad, it’s just bad, when people are supposed to be looking out for us, it’s like [Mayor James] don’t care,” Bonito said. “In my country where I come from, we call this politics.”
The no-bid security contract saga began last April when the city of West Palm Beach put the contract out for bid and then withdrew the request after receiving bids from over 10 companies. According to Adam Giddens, son of the owner of Giddens Security, the company held the security contract with the city for nearly five years. It was also one of the companies that submitted a bid.
Giddens claims his company and its employees were held in limbo for nearly the entire summer as they waited for the city to award the contract. It wasn’t until late August that they were given their 30-day cancellation notice, but it came without an explanation why the city chose to redact its initial decision to put the contract up for a bid.
Kathleen Walter, director of communications for the city, responded to questions about the mayor’s justification for awarding PSC the contract by pointing to the emphasis Mayor James has placed on public safety.
“Security enhancements, such as private security details at city sites and in our neighborhoods, are designed to make our city even safer,” Walter said. “The city’s selection of PSC, which was done in accordance with city code and Florida Statutes, was approved unanimously by the City Commission and with the support of a number of residents and representatives of the business community.”
The resolution came to a vote for the commissioners and the mayor of West Palm Beach for the first time on Sept. 9. The resolution to award PSC the contract without a bid was passed unanimously, but not before Giddens Security and its lawyers pleaded with the mayor and commissioners to reconsider their decision.
Giddens hopes to win some ground through legal action but does not know if they will be able to shoulder the costs associated with a lengthy legal fight.
Two weeks later, during another city commission meeting, Giddens employees implored the city commissioners and mayor to revert their decision and put the contract up for a formal bid.
Employee after employee took the stand and asked the city commission and mayor to think more carefully about their decision. They told stories of desperate financial need. Many were single parents, and some even had their children in the audience. Mayor James had no words of empathy for the Gidden’s employees’ who came to speak.
“It is not the city’s fault you are looking at unemployment. It is Giddens’ fault, your employer…for Mr. Giddens to encourage you to come up here and pull at our heartstrings, in my opinion is quite disingenuous,” James said.
Bonito will be transferred to another position within the Giddens corporation after one week of unemployment. He considers himself lucky.
“I am fortunate. I still have a job, I had no work this week, but there are others who still don’t have a job,” Bonito said.
For the former Giddens employees who are now without work, they will be forced to look for employment elsewhere while the issue waits to be resolved.
By Jessica Lykins