HWA security officers unpaid, checks bounce www.privateofficer.com
The state has frozen payments on its contract with HWA, Inc., a Seattle-based private security company that already has lost its federal contracts after employees complained their paychecks bounced.
HWA has had a contract to provide security for 25 state-run liquor stores.
HWA reportedly owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in pay to nearly 200 guards who worked at Army Corps of Engineers dams on the Columbia River system and in federal buildings, including federal courts, in Eastern Washington.
Federal officials fired HWA in early September.
Security guards in the Richland Federal Building and at other federal offices have complained they have gone unpaid for several weeks and have had their paychecks bounce, causing them severe financial problems.
HWA still has a one-year contract for $408,999 with the state Liquor Control Board, said Brian Smith, spokesman for the agency, but there is a “hold” on money owed under that contract.
Smith said the order to stop “continuing payments” came from the state Department of Revenue.
HWA’s owners, J. Thomas Wood and his wife Barbara Wood of Lake Forest Park, have not answered repeated calls from the Herald to their business, their $1.6 million home and their personal cell phones.
A Department of Revenue spokesman confirmed Monday that a stop order on contract payments to HWA has been issued but could not immediately say why.
“It probably is unpaid business and occupation taxes,” said Mike Gowrylow. Washington collects the tax as 0.5 percent on gross receipts, he explained.
The Herald learned that HWA renewed its expiring security guard license by Monday, the first business day after it was due to expire last Friday. It originally was issued Sept. 25, 2000.
Jerry Adams, who has worked for HWA for 11 months as a liquor store security guard, said he was watching Friday to see if the license would expire because that could affect his job.
“Somehow, I don’t know how, they got it renewed over the weekend,” he said.
The Herald also discovered state records show the adult son of HWA’s owners obtained a security guard license for a new company called TRO Security days after HWA lost its federal contracts. The new company’s principal security guard is Otis Williams, who held the same position with HWA. The two companies also have the same address on Fairview Avenue in Seattle.
Adams said the fact that the son is a junior with the father’s name, that the two companies are suite neighbors in the building owned by the father and that Williams holds the principal guard job for both companies shows they are the same.
“The veil they’ve created is so flimsy,” said Adams, a longtime private investigator in Seattle who closed his business to take the security job as a way to ease into retirement.
HWA’s website claims it has provided security for more than two dozen federal facilities in Manhattan, N.Y.
A call to HWA’s phone number at its New York office on the Federal Plaza revealed that number no longer is in service.
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