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Security contract goes to Crist acquaintance

The security company's chief executive has worked closely with the community center's project designer before, including on a committee that made security recommendations for the center for free.

When a security company suddenly pulled out of the new University Area Community Center Complex, project designer Victor Crist was able to find a replacement.

The Tampa Palms lawmaker hired Critical Intervention Services of Clearwater. The community development corporation that manages the center, of which Crist is chairman, put together a contract with the company's chief executive, K.C. Poulin, the last week of January, Crist said.

The deal commits the security company to a 90-day contract with the development corporation, after which either side can terminate.

The situation was not without complications, given the many roles both Crist and Poulin play in the community and the showcase center project.

Crist says Poulin declined at first to accept the $4,800 a month contract because one of his employees, Jodi Bradford, served on the community center's board. Bradford has since resigned from the board, Crist and Poulin said.

Poulin said he did not want to allow even the appearance of impropriety and accepted the contract only because Crist said the center was in a bind.

"He basically said they were out of options," Poulin said. "We discussed his budget and we drew up a contract." Crist was given no special benefits, Poulin said.

If Poulin was concerned about appearances of a conflict, it might be because he has worked closely with Crist before.

Poulin served on a safety committee for the USF-Area Civic Association, of which Crist is also president. As a member of that safety committee, Poulin made security recommendations for the center for free.

The vice president of Poulin's company is married to Amy Rabeck O'Rourke, a former legislative aide for Crist.

Poulin is also a member of the steering committee for Weed and Seed, a federal grant program administered by Hillsborough County. According to county community services director Kevin McConnell, the development corporation last year received a $45,000 service contract from the Weed and Seed group.

Poulin said he would resign from the steering committee if it presented a conflict of interest.

While the center's governing board voted on a budget and terms of the security contract, Crist said, it did not vote on who got the contract; instead, the board empowered Crist to find the right company.

Despite the connections, Crist denied any favoritism in his decision to hire Poulin's company.

"We're dealing with children out here" to take part in the center's programs, Crist said. "We didn't want some yahoo who couldn't get in the Army toting a gun around."

Crist said Critical Intervention Services offers certified officers at reasonable prices, and something other security companies do not - frequent after-hour patrols.

And since CIS already has contracts with other USF area properties, Crist said, it could provide ready backup if needed at the center.

Crist also said his choice was influenced heavily by Maj. Al Perotti Jr., commander of the Hillsborough sheriff's district office on N 20th Street. "I asked him who I should pick," Crist said, "and he kept saying, "K.C."

Perotti, while agreeing that CIS is a quality operation, remembers the conversation more like this: "I said they were one I would interview. I had nothing to do with the decision."

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