KCS chief of security placed on leave; investigation underway

KCS chief of security placed on leave; investigation underway and parents weigh in

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Steve Griffin Steve Griffin

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - School security in Knox County is in the spotlight and now parents are weighing in. This comes after learning the Knox County School System's Chief of Security Steve Griffin has been placed on leave.

In a news conference Saturday afternoon, Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre announced a full investigation into Steve Griffin's relationship with the district's former security systems vendor. That vendor was replaced after an audit found security deficiencies at Hardin Valley Academy and Powell Middle School.

Details are coming out about the problems with the security systems vendor Professional Security Consultants and Design, or PSCD, and the relationship between Griffin and the president of the security system firm, Mike Walker.

On Friday, Griffin told Dr. McIntyre he had two social trips with the security vendor's president. Now an investigation is underway to see if the relationship played a role in awarding PSCD with the school security system's contract. It's a possible conflict of interest some parents are concerned about.

Corey Reymer has two children who attend Knox County Schools. He says he's seen security deficiencies at the schools first hand.

"Doors that are supposed to be locked I see people coming in those doors no problem at all," said Reymer.

According to Dr. Jim McIntyre, an audit in 2011 showed problems with the security systems at Hardin Valley and Powell Middle. Deficiencies were discovered in keypad entry systems. Fire walls and motion detectors were also missing.

From 2006 to 2011, Knox County Schools used PSCD for the school system's electronic security systems. In 2007, when Hardin Valley and Powell Middle were being built, the Public Building Authority was overseeing the construction. PBA's CEO Dale Smith says they wanted to bid out the security systems project but were urged by Griffin to use PSCD.

"We received a memo from Steve Griffin who was the head of school security strongly recommending that we use them," said Dale Smith.

After finding flaws in the security system, the PBA tried to get PSCD to make repairs. School officials say PSCD didn't address the deficiency, so the PBA took legal action. The repairs were made but how it is being paid for is still in litigation.

"The contract with PSCD was terminated and we worked with a new contractor, SimplexGrinnel, to inspect all security panel and systems across the school system," said Dr. McIntyre.

He says minor security deficiencies were found in the summer of 2012 and were quickly corrected, but father of two Corey Reymer has his doubts.

"I'd like to see some proof that they've been repaired. If there are deficiencies in the security, we should have proof that it's been done. They can't just tell us it's been done and expect us to believe it. I don't believe it," said Reymer.

Dr. McIntyre says he's confident the schools are secure. Officials are moving forward with the full investigation of Griffin and the bidding process to find out if Griffin's relationship with Walker played any role in awarding PSCD with the school security systems contract.

Friday, Griffin told Dr. McIntyre he went to Bristol for a NASCAR race and went hunting with the president of the security firm. No word on who paid.

Griffin is on administrative leave with pay.

Dr. McIntyre says the topic of school security will be addressed again during Monday's school board work session and they'll decide then if additional action needs to be taken. The superintendent says he's willing to have another independent organization review the security systems.

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