Two years after our exposé, Center on Halsted looks for new security firm

One of the nation’s largest LGBTQ community centers is looking for candidates to replace its long-time security company, which is owned by a veteran police officer assigned to the 19th District in Lakeview.

The Center on Halsted’s request for proposals comes two years after CWBChicago first reported on allegations of a race-fueled incident involving Officer Thomas Walsh at a Boystown bar in 2013.

Our report was part of a multi-installment series that investigated the bar incident as well as other aspects of Walsh Security operations.

Requesting proposals
In a 16-page “Security Request for Proposal” dated Sept. 26, the Center seeks “trauma-informed security guards.”

“The ideal security guard would have experience in working with patrons of diverse mental capacity and those experiencing homelessness,” according to the request.

As recently as this summer, Center CEO Modesto “Tico” Valle stood firmly behind keeping Walsh Security at the Center.

Officer Tom Walsh in an IPRA photo line-up. | IPRA

In response to a Medium post about the bar incident, Valle wrote, that Walsh “was disciplined in 2017” for the alleged racist battery at Lucky Horseshoe Lounge, 3169 North Halsted. In fact, the police department has not confirmed that Walsh has been disciplined for the incident.

“The senior leadership of Center on Halsted and its board of directors are aware of this matter, ” he wrote.

Valle said Walsh was asked to “explain his actions [and] undergo racial sensitivity training” among other things.

Valle declined to comment for our 2017 report because someone told him the case was still under investigation.

“There is nothing to comment on,” he said. Valle did not respond when we informed him that the Independent Police Review Authority concluded its investigation two years earlier.

The COH security contract has yielded Walsh Security more than $120,000 annually, according to the Center’s tax records.

Allegations and a settlement
James Matthews, the doorman who said Walsh knocked him to the ground and repeatedly used racist words at the Horseshoe, sued Walsh, the bar, and the city of Chicago. He received a $300,000 settlement from Walsh’s insurance company last year, according to court records. Matthews received a separate $2,000 worker’s compensation payment from the Lucky Horseshoe.

The Lucky Horseshoe Lounge in 2019 | File

In June 2015, IPRA recommended a 20-day suspension for Walsh in connection with the incident. Then-Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy reviewed the matter and extended the suspension to 60 days, according to investigative files secured by CWBChicago.

Walsh immediately exercised his contractual right to file a grievance in the matter.

The police department has failed to respond to a two-month-old CWBChicago request for documents detailing the current status of Walsh’s grievance. Last week, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office intervened in the matter and formally notified the police department that they were reviewing CPD’s failure to respond.

New interest
A new light has been directed on CWBChicago’s reporting by a months-long effort to make the Boystown neighborhood more accepting of blacks and other marginalized people.

In an email this summer, Rev. Jamie Frazier of the Lighthouse Foundation thanked CWBChicago for its reporting, “I’m especially grateful for your 3-part series about Walsh Security.”

Frazier said the foundation would be “focusing our latest anti-racism community organizing efforts” on the Center and its employment of Walsh Security.

Frazier was not reachable for comment on Sunday.

Other concerns
For more than two years, the CPD’s Bureau of Internal Affairs has been investigating the propriety of Lakeview bars and business groups hiring Walsh Security while Officer Walsh was assigned to work with those same businesses as the department’s “business liaison.”

The liaison role could have potentially put Walsh in a position to handle police department matters involving the same businesses that paid him for private security services.

While Walsh was removed from his role as business liaison in late 2016, the Northalsted Business Alliance alone has consistently paid his company more than $70,000 annually for private patrol services. Last year, the Boystown business group spent $83,000 on security services, according to its annual report (PDF).

The city’s Office of the Inspector General and CPD’s Bureau of Internal Affairs have been investigating Walsh and his company since late 2017, according to a source.

Among the OIG’s lines of inquiry are $52,520 in tax dollars paid to Walsh Security for patrols along Halsted Street in 2011 and 2012. City ordinance prohibits municipal employees from receiving tax money as a city contractor.

A security guard wears a “Walsh Security” vest at an event where taxpayer dollars were used to purchase security services. | A Boy’s Town on Facebook

The OIG is also reportedly looking at a financial arrangement in which the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce directed $60,000 in taxpayer money to “A&T Security,” an unlicensed security company that was supposedly run by Walsh’s son, Thomas. Yet, the security officers who performed the services sometimes wore the uniforms and insignias of Officer Walsh’s company.

Two days after CWBChicago reported on the Lakeview East matter on Sept. 5, 2017, the chamber’s executive director told DNAInfo that the story was “ridiculous”

“It’s ridiculous to think they would accuse us or our organization of doing something that is not above board, really,” [Maureen] Martino said of the blog’s report. “All the checks were made out to A&T. There’s no way Walsh Sr. was involved in that.”

Martino went on to suggest that the guards who were seen wearing Walsh Security vests “grabbed the wrong vest that day.”

Read all of CWBChicago’s Walsh Security coverage here.