Fired Wackenhut Whistleblower "Vindicated" by Arrests | NBC 6 South Florida

Fired Wackenhut Whistleblower "Vindicated" by Arrests

Man who claims he warned security company about overbilling files lawsuit

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    Fired Wackenhut Whistleblower "Vindicated" by Arrests
    NBCMiami.com
    Marty Bair

    When eight current and former employees, supervisors and executives for Wackenhut Security, now called G4S, were arrested recently and charged with racketeering, one man felt justice.

    "I felt vindicated, vindicated," said Marty Bair.

    Bair was a senior supervisor for Wackenhut when he told top executives there that the company was dramatically overbilling Miami-Dade County for empty guard posts on transit systems.

    They fired him.

    "They did everything they could to try to destroy me, and prevent me from telling the truth," said Bair.

    Wackenhut says they fired him for other reasons and have attacked his credibility as well as his findings, but Bair is suing Wackenhut over the firing. And his lawyer says Wackenhut owes him.

    "They fired him because he took part in uncovering their cover up," said attorney Gary Costales.

    Costales is referring to allegations from Miami-Dade County and from a separate whistleblower lawsuit accusing Wackenhut management of "systematically" overbilling the county for empty guard posts and fraudulent timesheets. The lawsuit claims the overbilling amounts to $17 million over the life of the contract while the county, which sampled a much smaller timeframe, found the overbilling amounted to several million dollars. Wackenhut says both allegations are wrong and points to supportive statements from judges.

    In an NBC Miami investigation in 2007, more than a dozen current and former guards and supervisors who worked for Wackenhut and its contractor gave detailed accounts of how they were routinely instructed to work a few extra hours yet sign timesheets declaring they worked a full 8-hour shift. They were also offered overtime for extra hours so timesheets could place them in two guard posts. Even though it was like free money to them, they told NBC Miami they knew it was wrong and spoke up. When they did, many were fired. Wackenhut has insisted previously those employees were let go for other reasons.

    Drew Levine ran Wackenhut's Florida operations at the time of some of the questionable billings, and now Levine is Wackenhut's (G4S) top executive in North America. But did Levine know about the widespread overbilling of taxpayers back then? Wackenhut says Levine was not involved in day to day operations. But Bair says he informed Levine face-to-face.

    "I briefed him personally, in 1999," Bair said.

    Wackenhut has consistently said it did nothing wrong and disputes the Miami-Dade County audit that lead Mayor Carlos Alvarez to demand Wackenhut repay taxpayers millions of dollars. And on Monday, a Wackenhut spokesman said Levine's attorney says he's been told by prosecutors he will not be arrested, as the other current and former employees have.

    One of them, Eddy Esquivel, who runs G4S' operations in Miami-Dade, sent an internal executive memo five days before his arrest Friday. His memo discusses the arrest of several current and former employees September 10, calling the case full of "grave injustices," and that Wackenhut "stands squarely behind me" amid a "malicious corporate campaign" against Wackenhut and warns his colleagues, "Do not be tempted to buy into the negative and sensationalistic media spin."

    A new internal memo from Levine offers talking points to managers in the wake of the arrests. He says Wackenhut made mistakes due to timesheets filled out by hand, but without any intent to defraud taxpayers.

    And the lawyer for Rene Pedrayes, who ran Wackenhut in Miami-Dade before being promoted to run the Florida region, says they'd been assured he, too, would not be arrested, and blamed the arrest on a lying, disgruntled former employee.

    As for Bair, is he sorry he told his employer the unflattering information?

    "Nope, not at all," he said. "Anyone who knows me, knows I will tell the truth."