Sunday, August 19, 2018
News Roundup

After politicians fight for him, Mr. Al's back at Tampa City Hall

TAMPA — It took heated discussions at two City Council meetings and the threat of losing contracts worth millions, but Monday morning, Mr. Al returned to his post at Old City Hall.

"I'm glad to be back," said Al-Hassan Mans-Kamara from behind the security desk between the elevators, where he has watched over the building for the last six years. "They're nice people, very nice people."

Mr. Al, or Al, as he is known around the historic downtown building, has been praised by City Council members for his pleasant demeanor with the public and his diligence on their behalf — particularly when public meetings can turn contentious. So they were not happy two weeks ago to learn he had been abruptly removed without notice after a complaint that he was discourteous to an employee.

Council members took up his cause in a big way. They summoned representatives from his employer, Allied Universal Security, and at last week's council meeting took them to task, questioning how the company treats its employees. They requested security camera footage of the incident.

And notably, they delayed the approval of a new $2.1 million city contract with Allied that was on the agenda that day. Allied has a separate $616,034 city contract up for renewal in November, council members noted.

"I'm looking at should we continue with this management," council Chairwoman Yvonne Yolie Capin said last week.

According to discussion at the meeting and a letter from Mans-Kamara to the council, the incident involved an employee who said Mans-Kamara did not open the door so she could pass through the building at 5:45 a.m., before it officially opens. Mans-Kamara said he did admit the employee and was not rude.

He said he was fired and told to leave, though a spokeswoman for Allied later told the Times he was still employed by the company.

The day after last week's heated meeting with Allied, Mans-Kamara said he got a call from a woman from the company and met with her. "She said, 'You're going to go back to your work,' " he said. "So here I am."

Council members were pleased to find him in his regular spot, greeting people, logging in visitors and giving directions.

"That's what life is about," said council member Charlie Miranda. "Working things out."

An emailed response to the Times from Allied said Mans-Kamara's return to City Hall was the result of the normal process of handling such matters.

"As a service provider, we always strive to be receptive and responsive to the feedback and concerns of our clients," it said.

Sue Carlton can be reached at [email protected]

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