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Knox school officials address security concerns | News

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Knox school officials address security concerns
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Knox County Schools held a press conference Saturday afternoon to address its buildings' security and the investigation into one of its officials.

Knox County Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre released a statement Friday night announcing that he had placed Knox County Schools Chief of Security Steve Griffin on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation.

The county is conducting an investigation in Griffin's relationship with the school system's former electronic security systems vendor, Professional Security Consultants and Design.  

Dr. McIntyre said Griffin disclosed to him Friday night that he had made two personal trips with the PSCD proprietor Mike Walker.  Apparently Griffin said that he and Walker traveled to a NASCAR race in Bristol together.  During a second trip, Griffin stayed at Walker's cabin during a hunting trip.  Based upon this information, Dr. McIntyre said he has decided to place Griffin on administrative leave pending the investigation.

"I felt compelled based on that new information to look deeper and to ask more questions to launch an investigation into the relationship between Chief Griffin and PSCD," he said.

Deputy Chief of Security Rodney Beverly will serve as the Acting Chief of Security until the investigation closes.  

Several years ago PSCD was hired to provide video camera surveillance, alarms and fire prevention systems.  The security company was also supposed to provide infrastructure to run those systems at Hardin Valley Academy and Powell Middle School.

An audit by Nashville-based Stansell Electric Company in 2011 found that PSCD did not deliver what it promised to the school district.  The audit reported that some of the equipment was not installed to code, some equipment was installed, but only partially functioning or not working at all at HVA and PMS.  PSCD did work on similar systems within all of Knox County Schools buildings during the decade it was under contract.

After these deficiencies were highlighted, Knox County Schools terminated its contract with PSCD and hired its new contractor Simplex/Grinnell to install, repair and monitor security systems across the school district.

Knox County Board Chair Karen Carson told reporters Saturday Knox County students are safe.

"I am confident that our systems are working as they are intended to do," Carson said.

Griffin's son-in-law did work for PSCD in 2008 until he was laid off in 2010.  His son-in-law was hired by PSCD following his service as a communications specialist with the U.S. Army in Afganistan.  Dr. McIntyre said he asked Griffin about his son-in-law's role with PSCD  in the past and found there was "no impropriety."p

"We found there were no contracting decisions made during that time, and that the son-in-law had specialized skills from his service as a communications specialist in the Army that would have been attractive to any electronics systems company," said McIntyre.

Previous Story (Friday, Feb. 1, 2013)

Knox County Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre released a statement Friday night announcing that he has placed Knox County Schools Chief of Security Steve Griffin on administrative leave with pay pending an investigation.

Knox County is looking into Griffin's relationship with the school system's former electronic security systems vendor, Professional Security Consultants and Design.

Several years ago, the company was hired to provide video camera surveillance, alarms, and fire prevention systems, as well as infrastructure to run those systems at Hardin Valley Academy and Powell Middle School. 

According to an audit by Nashville-based Stansell Electric Company in 2011, PSCD did not deliver what it promised to the school district.

Dr. McIntyre said he made his decision based upon new information Griffin provided him on Friday but did not elaborate. 

Deputy Chief of Security Rodney Beverly will serve as the Acting Chief of Security pending the outcome of the investigation. 

Previous Story

Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett tells 10News he will not consider any funding for school safety until a lawsuit is settled among Knox County and the Public Building Authority, and a former security contractor for Knox County Schools.

The fight between the PBA and Knoxville-based Professional Security Consultants and Design has been going on for several years.  It's over work the security company did at Hardin Valley Academy and Powell Middle School in the mid-2000's.

PSCD was contracted to provide video camera surveillance, alarm, and fire prevention systems, as well as infrastructure to run those systems.

However, an audit done by a Nashville-based Stansell Electric Company in 2011 found PSCD did not deliver what it promised to the school district.

The audit found some of the equipment was not installed to code, some equipment was installed but only partially functioning or not working at all at HVA and PMS. PSCD eventually did work on similar systems in all of Knox County Schools buildings during the decade they were under contract.

Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre told 10News on Friday afternoon that the district now has a new security contractor, "SimplexGrinnell". McIntyre provided 10News with a letter from from that company about a review it did during the summer of 2012 of the systems in every Knox County Schools building in the district.

The letter, signed by Manager Ricky Pyle, reads, "During the inspection process SimplexGrinnell documented any deficiencies and provided quotes for the repair of each deficiency...To date, SimplexGrinnell is not aware of any existing issues with the security systems in any of the schools."

When asked to elaborate about other specific deficiencies identified in the "SimplexGrinnell" review, Dr. McIntyre declined to comment, citing security reasons. But, Dr. McIntyre said he is confident in all of the security and fire-prevention systems across the district, and that he is open to an external review of those systems should the Knox County Board of Education request it.

"Now, if the school board would like to consider doing more and bringing in an outside organization to take another look at it, I'm certainly open to having that conversation," said Dr. McIntyre.

We also reached out to Mayor Burchett about the lawsuit, its findings, and response from the school district. He said he would not consider any new requests for safety funding right now. That includes the Knox County Sheriff's plan, 10News first reported earlier this week, to ask for 20 deputies to be placed in Knox County Schools outside the city limits.

"As far as new funding goes for new projects, I'm not advancing any of these proposals right now, cause I'm really upset about this because I feel like we've been misinformed," said Burchett.

Burchett also sent a letter to Knox County Board of Education Chair Karen Carson urging the school board to approve an external audit of security operations in all Knox County Schools.

"I recognize that this letter falls outside of the purview of the Executive Branch. However, since it involved the security of Knox County school children, I feel it is incumbent on me to make this request," wrote Burchett.

10News also contacted Mike Walker, the owner of PCSD on Friday. He said his attorney is still going through documents, they have no comment at this time, but release a statement on Monday.

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