Duke and Durham will move forward with security contracts after officials say that they're satisfied with the company's response to allegations of discrimination and harassment in other cities.
In a January 2019 article, Indy Week revealed a series of lawsuits and allegations against Allied Universal, which provides security personnel to Duke since 2005 and the city of Durham since the beginning of this year.
The complaints against the company include a 2017 sexual harassment lawsuit in New York—later dismissed at the plaintiffs' request—and a 2018 religious discrimination settlement in California.
The Indy Week report also laid out multiple allegations of excessive force, previously reported in the New York Times and the Boston Globe.
Barbara Moreno, Allied Universal vice president for marketing, declined to comment to The Chronicle concerning the allegations and Duke's questioning of them.
When IndyWeek's report came out, Durham Mayor Steve Schewel—who helped found Indy Week in 1983—said that that city was unaware of the allegations and would look into potential implications for the company's contract with Durham.
The City of Durham announced it intended to hire Allied Universal in December 2018 to provide security for city parking decks after the city's previous contract with another company expired on Dec. 31.
Duke also learned of the allegations against Allied Universal through news reports, Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president of administration, wrote in an email to The Chronicle.
Although the city had originally requested that staff present information on the allegations in front of the City Council, Schewel later told Indy Week that the company had submitted written responses to the city's questions.
Thomas Leathers, Durham's Chief Parking Administrator, sent a letter to Allied Universal asking for clarification about the alleged incidents and the company's employee training and policies.
Leathers also wrote that the city would conduct additional reference checks, which the city obtained from the Durham-based Norwich Realty Services and the North Carolina State Employees Credit Union. Neither expressed significant concerns about their experience with Allied Universal.
In its response to the city's questions, Allied Universal detailed its training and "concern resolution" processes.
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The company also said 19 employees would be assigned to Durham, including five employees who had previously worked for Durham under NightHawk Security.
"We regret the isolated incidents referenced above, as they are not indicative of our culture, and we work hard every day to maintain our clients' and our employees' trust and confidence," Allied Universal wrote in their response to the city.
A subsequent memo sent to the city manager from interim transportation director Bill Judge—and provided to The Chronicle by Thomas Leathers, Durham's chief parking administrator—outlined the city's conclusions.
"Staff concluded that the firm has implemented a diversity of preventative and proactive measures to mitigate future occurrences..." the memo states.
It outlined some of those efforts, including that the company offered additional training for religious discrimination in the state of the lawsuit, established a hotline for employees to anonymously report concerns, implemented a "use of force" policy and had an outside company evaluate its national anti-discrimination policies, among other measures.
The memo recommended the city go forward, and Durham officials decided to move forward with the city's contract with Allied Universal.
Duke administrators did not speak to Durham officials before the city decided to move forward with its own contract with Allied Universal, Cavanaugh wrote. Instead, Duke took its own steps to investigate the allegations before making a similar decision to move forward with the University's security contract.
Duke's relationship with Allied Universal is significantly longer than Durham's, as Allied Universal personnel arrived on campus in 2005 to supplement Duke University Police Department and Duke security guards on patrol routes.
"Once we learned of the claims, we spoke directly with the senior leadership of Allied, and do not believe the claims had any application to our contract," Cavanaugh wrote.
However, the University did use the opportunity to reiterate its expectations and revisit security training and policies.
"Our conversation with Allied’s senior leadership around training, policies, and our expectations validated what we had previously reviewed, and provided an additional opportunity to reinforce our values and expectations," Cavanaugh wrote.