BOSTON >> A North Shore senator whose district borders the New Hampshire home of one of the region's remaining nuclear power plants has concerns that the private security firm that employed the Orlando nightclub shooter and provides security at the plant has been hired by the MBTA to guard its money.
Sen. Kathleen O'Connor Ives, a Newburyport Democrat, told the News Service that it was "crazy and beyond ironic" that the MBTA would put the London-based G4S in charge of protecting the transit agency's money room.
O'Connor Ives cited Orlando shooter Omar Mateen previous employment at G4S as well as an Associated Press story last week that noted the firm's role in providing security at the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station as part of its look at other scandals involving employee screening and training that have marred the firm's reputation in recent years.
"If G4S is having difficulties maintaining the qualities of their staffing and ensuring the proper background checks are being conducted, then the timing isn't right for this firm in particular to be considered a suitable replacement for MBTA transit police," O'Connor Ives told the News Service.
Though the senator did not attend a hearing a week ago Monday during which the MBTA police union blasted the decision to hire G4S, she said she would have spoken in opposition had she been there.
"I would have spoken in opposition to privatizing it for a whole host of reasons that boil down to my understanding that the difficulties have always been from management about what needs to be addressed first," O'Connor Ives said. "To me, we have to press the pause button on it."
A spokesman for the MBTA said G4S already works for other state agencies and holds a statewide purchasing agreement.
"The MBTA is pleased that it was able to retain the services of a widely respected, international firm to help secure the money room, where a series of threats to safety and security had been identified," MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said in a statement.
The money room in Charlestown counts over $132 million a year in receipts from the MBTA, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the cities of Boston and Cambridge.
Officials said the move to the private security firm on June 6 was made after outside experts found lapses in security while being protected by MBTA Transit Police, including outside gates and doors left open at the same time and employees, visitors, repair personnel and others being allowed to enter and leave the facility with minimal, if any, screening.
Additionally, the MBTA said armed revenue collection agents were not regularly checked for up-to-date licenses to carry firearms. The $400,000 contract with G4S will save the MBTA about $350,000 a year.
The New York Times last week also reported on controversies that have swirled around the private security firm in recent years, including what the paper described as the improper vetting on an employee with a criminal record who went on to kill two colleagues in Iraq.
Mateen reportedly worked for G4S for nine years, and the company is facing a new round of questions over why he remained with the company even after it was revealed that he had been investigated by the FBI in 2013 and a local sheriff had demanded his removal from a courthouse in Florida where he was providing security.
A spokesman for G4S said the company was never told about the inflammatory remarks relating to terrorism that Mateen reportedly made to courthouse colleagues that led to the sheriff's request, and he was later cleared by the company to continue working.