SF City Attorney’s Office investigating Muni negotiator over security contract 

Controversy is heating up around a security firm’s contract with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

Two former employees of Cypress Private Security told The San Francisco Examiner that the City Attorney’s Office is investigating SFMTA contract negotiator Chris Grabarkiewctz for possible ethics violations related to a recently awarded $38 million security contract. The City Attorney’s Office does not comment on active investigations.

The investigation follows a Tuesday story in The Examiner detailing potential conflicts of interest between Cypress and Grabarkiewctz, the SFMTA’s director of security, investigations and enforcement.

Grabarkiewctz led recent negotiations on behalf of the SFMTA between two bidders for the security contract: Andrews International and Cypress. Grabarkiewctz is a former Cypress employee who was once commended by the company for increasing profits while negotiating with the SFMTA, which runs Muni and other transit in The City.

The SFMTA previously said it would conduct its own investigation into the process.

Robert Wolfgang Jr. and Ernest Dayce worked with Grabarkiewctz at both Cypress and the SFMTA, with Wolfgang once holding the position that Grabarkiewctz how has. Both men told The Examiner they were contacted Tuesday by a lawyer from the City Attorney’s Office seeking information on Grabarkiewctz.

George Cothran of the City Attorney’s Office asked if they saw Grabarkiewctz taking “possible kickbacks,” according to both men. “I told him I didn’t see anything change hands directly,” said Wolfgang, adding of Cypress that “I know he made a lot of comments about ‘owing them’ and did so in my presence.”

Wolfgang also alleges that when Andrews International was dropped from the bidding process Grabarkiewctz made other questionable comments. “Thirty minutes after the end of these so-called negotiations, he’s on the phone with [Cypress CEO] Kes Narbutas saying, ‘You owe me a lot of martinis!’” Wolfgang said. “It was on speakerphone. [The deputy city attorney] asked how I knew the voice. I said it was because Kes was my boss while I was at Cypress.”

Wolfgang worked with Grabarkiewtcz at the SFMTA until May 2012, when he took time off to deal with a personal matter. He recommended Grabarkiewctz for his job, Wolfgang said, but when he returned Grabarkiewtcz said there were no open positions.

Wolfgang went to Cypress, where he worked alongside Dayce to manage the account with the SFMTA.

Dayce and Wolfgang lost their jobs at Cypress at Grabarkiewctz’s request, they allege.

While at Cypress, both Dayce and Wolfgang allege they saw Grabarkiewctz handle the negotiations with questionable motives: Suggesting he would stack a bid-review panel to benefit Andrews International at one point, or celebrating with Cypress the ending of Andrews International’s contract.

Wolfgang said he only came forward with the allegations now because, while working under Grabarkiewctz, he felt he would be fired for blowing the whistle. He felt obligated to be friendly with Grabarkiewctz, who would invite him out for drinks frequently even though Wolfgang does not drink alcohol.

Grabarkiewctz would not respond to requests for comment, but a former police commander and SFMTA director of security and fare enforcement questioned why Wolfgang would criticize Grabarkiewctz. Lea Militello, who is now retired, said “morale was in the tank” at the fare enforcement division under Wolfgang’s leadership, while Grabarkiewctz “did a fantastic job.”

Militello would not comment on the ethics violation allegations. Dayce was hired by Andrews International two months ago, the company competing for the contract with Cypress. He insisted that should not affect the veracity of his complaints about Grabarkiewctz.

Grabarkiewtcz may not have broken city ethics laws, but Wolfgang and Dayce say even if rules do not exist for this situation perhaps they should.

John St. Croix, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said the incident does raise red flags, but was unique as it involves a worker from a company allegedly benefiting that company by working for The City. Ethics laws only govern the reverse: government employees need waivers to work for companies they directly worked with while in government.

About The Author

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Joe Fitzgerald Rodriguez

Bio:
Born and raised in San Francisco, Fitzgerald Rodriguez was a staff writer at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and now writes the S.F. Examiner's political column On Guard. He is also a transportation beat reporter covering pedestrians, Muni, BART, bikes, and anything with wheels.
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