Portland city leaders took heat Wednesday over a relatively routine question: Who should provide security at City Hall and other government offices?
City leaders took bids for the security contract earlier this year, and the winner was Portland’s longtime provider, G4S Secure Solutions.
G4S is the U.S. arm of the world’s largest security company. The British firm has drawn complaints of mistreating detainees at U.S. immigration facilities, among other alleged human rights violations around the world.
Protestors cut off city commissioners repeatedly Wednesday, demanding to be allowed to testify against the contract. But City Council policy says contracts such as the one for security — presented to city leaders as a “report” rather than an “ordinance” — aren’t up for public testimony.
Mayor Ted Wheeler called a brief halt to deliberations twice because of the disruptions. Once the vote recommenced, Commissioner Amanda Fritz said she believes in the people who work for G4S at Portland City Hall.
“These are good people doing good work in very difficult circumstances,” she said, before approving the contract. “Frankly, because of disruptions like this, it becomes a very nasty place to work at times.”
Only Commissioner Chloe Eudaly voted against the contract, which will pay G4S $10 million over five years.
“I want to make something very clear: I support and appreciate our security team. I’m grateful that they have good stable jobs with benefits thanks to their union representatives,” she said. “But I believe there are ways we can achieve a safe work environment and a better world for others at the same time.”