DENVER – A hearing officer for the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses issued a recommendation earlier this week that a private security company should have its license suspended for 6 months in the wake of a deadly shooting by a contractor it hired through another company last year.
Representatives for Pinkerton, the security company, argued in a hearing on Feb. 3 as to why the company should not have its licensed revoked after Matthew Dolloff, the contracted guard the company hired through Isborn Security Services, allegedly shot and killed Lee Keltner outside dueling demonstrations last October in Denver.
Department of Excise and Licenses Hearing Officer Bruce Plotkin issued the recommendations on what to do with the company’s license in a letter on Wednesday, which the city released Thursday afternoon.
Pinkerton and Isborn Security were both cited in early November for violations of the city’s municipal code related to employing or directing an unlicensed security guard.
9News’s parent company, TEGNA, had contracted with Pinkerton last June to provide security services for the news station, which had asked the company for two guards to provide security for two crews that were in the field for the Oct. 10 rallies.
Pinkerton turned to Isborn Security, which it had contracted with for 15 years, to subcontract out security guards, according to facts stipulated by the city and companies. Documents show Pinkerton asked Isborn to provide an armed and non-uniformed guard that day. 9News has previously said it requested unarmed guards from Pinkerton.
Isborn contracted with Dolloff to serve as one of the guards as an independent contractor. But the owner of the company was unaware, according to documents, that Dolloff was not licensed to carry a firearm in Denver, nor did he possess a Denver Security Guard License.
Dolloff allegedly shot Keltner after Keltner used pepper spray against him, photos and video from the scene showed.
The Denver Municipal Code reads, in part: “It shall be unlawful for a private security employer to permit or direct any person to perform security services unless the person has obtained a license.”
Isborn in December reached a settlement agreement with the city to surrender its security guard employer license and not seek another for five years, which was approved by Department of Excise and Licenses Executive Director Ashley Kilroy.
At the Feb. 3 hearing, which took place after Kilroy rejected a settlement agreement between Pinkerton and the city in December without giving a public reason, it was shown that Pinkerton had made a request to renew its license on Oct. 7, just three days before the shooting.
According to the recommendation issued by Plotkin, attorneys for the department initially argued that since Pinkerton contracted Isborn, which was found to have violated its license agreements, that Pinkerton should face the same sanctions.
Attorneys for Pinkerton argued that it did not tell Isborn to hire an unlicensed security guard, that the city’s argument was not in line with the municipal code and that the company should not be held liable.
But the hearing officer disagreed.
“Isborn’s responses, suggesting it had little or no process to ensure its guards are licensed, would have caused a reasonable licensee to inquire further into its subcontractors’ practices,” Plotkin wrote. “Pinkerton’s failure to do so, and its failure to have procedures in place to avoid hiring unlicensed Security Guards, whether directly or indirectly, renders it liable for Isborn’s unlicensed security guard.”
The recommendation letter said the fact that Pinkerton “did not intend to provide security services of an unlicensed security guard to 9News” was a mitigating factor in the consideration of a penalty, but also that the fact that it “failed to ensure” that Isborn was in compliance with Denver licensing laws was an aggravating factor.
The full recommendation from Plotkin is that Pinkerton have its license suspended for six months. That period could start effective Oct. 16, 2020 if the company has stopped providing security services since then, or effective on the date of Kilroy’s final decision, which has yet to be issued.
According to the document, Plotkin also recommended that Pinkerton be required to put in place better internal procedures to be sure it only hires licensed security providers before its licensed can be renewed. The letter says that the department would renew the company’s Private Security Services license if that condition and the six-month suspension were met.
Now that a recommendation has been issued, Kilroy will have to make a final decision in the coming weeks based off the evidence presented at the Feb. 3 hearing and the recommendation from the hearing officer.
Dolloff, who has been charged with second-degree murder, appeared in court for a scheduled arraignment Friday, but the hearing was continued to March 26 after his defense attorneys and prosecutors agreed they needed more time to prepare.
Dolloff’s attorneys said they were working on obtaining additional discovery for the case in coming weeks, including a preliminary autopsy report for Keltner and reports from the office of the Medical Examiner. Dolloff is currently out of jail on a $500,000 bond pending further court hearings.