Did Wackenhut Strike Back?

George Wackenhut never was much a fan of investigative journalism.

The security mogul's 800-page commissioned biography The Quiet American is practically framed as a condemnation of the field. The book's introduction decries the media coverage of a 1991 congressional investigation into the company's shady surveillance tactics in some rather colorful language. "This copy was written fast and dirty. By kids. Kids who were either too lazy or too rushed or too oblivious to write news that reflects balance and perspective."

The alleged actions of Wackenhut's namesake company, prior to the September 6th publication of a New Times investigation, may explain why the Quiet American so disliked nosy media types. Wackenhut's contract with Miami-Dade County's Juvenile Assessment Center terminated on July 31st. Since then, the county has mysteriously granted the company a five-month emergency extension of their agreement.

Six days before the New Times investigation hit the stands, the company informed seven guards at the JAC that they no longer qualified for their positions. The new contract, these employees were allegedly told, called for guards with three years of U.S. law enforcement experience. Some of the guards removed from the facility were demoted and remanded to lower-paying posts, though they'd ostensibly done nothing wrong.

Of the seven employees removed from the JAC, four had provided taped statements to an investigator collecting evidence for the plaintiff suing Wackenhut for a bum termination. In these statements, the employees testified that Wackenhut had understaffed and over billed the county facility for nine years — and all of these statements were included in the New Times investigation.

Why the county has suddenly determined to require three years of law enforcement experience is anyone's guess. Calls to Wacknehut's attorney, the JAC, and the County office of Procurement were not returned.-Calvin Godfrey

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