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Soldier Field security battle brews amid alleged problems at clout-heavy firm

Security check outside Soldier Field

Security checks outside Soldier Field before a game between the Chicago Bears and the San Francisco 49ers. | Associated Press

Five weeks away from the first summer concert at Soldier Field and 14 weeks from the Bears’ exhibition home opener, a high-stakes battle is brewing to determine who provides security at the lakefront stadium.

Chicago-based Monterrey Security — with a powerful assist from the City Council’s Hispanic Caucus — has spent the last five months haggling about an audit by BDO USA LLP, an accounting firm hired by stadium operator SMG.

SMG ordered the audit to determine whether a host of problems that cost Monterrey its contract at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis — and security licenses in Minnesota and New York — also were occurring in Chicago.

Minneapolis problems uncovered by SMG’s hand-picked law firm, Maslon LLP, included sloppy record keeping, inadequate training and background checks and hiring employees with criminal records.

The Minneapolis controversy prompted New York to deny Monterrey’s security license, a decision now on appeal. That cost Monterrey its security work at New Era Field, home of the Buffalo Bills.

Against that backdrop, Monterrey has haggled with SMG since November over the scope of a Chicago audit and a confidentiality agreement that would prevent both sides from disclosing proprietary and negative information about the NFL’s largest minority-owned security company.

Soldier Field security guard

Monterrey Security is facing scrutiny about its operations in Chicago after losing its security licenses in two other states. | Getty Images

Last week, after signing the nondisclosure agreement, SMG set an April 20 deadline for Monterrey to produce the voluminous records needed to conduct the audit and warned Monterrey it would be in breach of its Soldier Field contract if it did not comply. The two sides are still sparring.

Leonard Bonacci, SMG’s regional vice-president of stadium venue management, did not return repeated phone calls and text messages.

Juan Gaytan, the former Chicago Police officer who owns Monterrey, also could not be reached.

Monterrey Security is now represented by Becky Carroll, a political operative with close ties to Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Four years ago, Carroll ran a super PAC that supported the re-election campaigns of the mayor and his City Council allies.

Carroll released a statement from Monterrey that essentially accuses SMG of engaging in a witch hunt tailor-made to drive the company out of the NFL.

“As we have grown from a boutique security firm to one on a national scale as the largest such minority-owned firm in this industry, we have become used to threats and tactics used by others to disparage our record,” the statement says.

“Billion-dollar big businesses who work in this space and have ruled it for decades are threatened by our success and will do anything to shut us down. They should rest assured that we will continue to grow and be successful in spite of them. And we know the facts will prevail over their false attacks.”

The political intrigue is not limited to Carroll’s connection to Emanuel. Reyaid Kazmi, the husband of City Clerk Anna Valencia, was hired by Monterrey during the haggling over the audit.

Aerial view of Soldier Field

With the Chicago Bears home opener just a few months away, a fight has been brewing over security at the lakefront stadium. | Lee Hogan/For Sun-Times

The Hispanic Caucus has also gone to bat for Monterrey. Its members include Ald. Danny Solis (25th), whose brother, former Chicago firefighter Santiago Solis, joined Gaytan in co-founding Monterrey Security. Santiago Solis is no longer involved in Monterrey.

Ald. Gilbert Villegas (36th), chairman of the Hispanic Caucus, said he hasn’t read the Minneapolis audit.

Nor was he aware that a shoplifting suspect at a Northwest Side Walmart with PCP in his system had died last summer after being forcibly restrained by an unlicensed security guard working for Monterrey with a prior arrest for domestic violence.

Villegas said he’s supporting Monterrey to preserve the jobs of 4,000 Chicago employees, most of them black and Hispanic.

“We don’t want Monterrey being bullied — especially in our backyard,” Villegas said.

Villegas said Gaytan has acknowledged “mistakes” and the need to “tighten paperwork,” but maintained those problems could be “easily remedied.”

Gaytan also told aldermen changes have already been made in response to the Minneapolis audit — which should have remained confidential.

“Every business is not perfect. If they have a little bit of hiccups here and there, they should be afforded the opportunity to remedy it,” Villegas said.

“If a company like SMG is gonna play `gotcha,’ then minority firms … are gonna fail because [SMG doesn’t] want the competition. We’re not gonna allow that.”

Clout-heavy Monterrey has had a corner on the Chicago security market for years, but that appears to be changing.

When Monterrey’s contract to provide security at Wrigley Field expired after the 2017 Major League Baseball season, the Cubs switched that lucrative contract to Andy Frain, according to team spokesman Julian Green.

The Bears are also contemplating a change in security arrangements at their practice facility and on the road.