I-TEAM UPDATE: Columbia County not following state requirements when licensing security company

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Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019
News 12 at 6 o' clock

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- (WRDW/WAGT) -- Our I-Team continues to investigate unlicensed security after we found security guards working at several venues around town without proper licensing, background checks, or proof of training.

It's a problem with a lot of layers, and we found, it's not just the security companies breaking the law.

When Ricky Davis and his fiancee go to a show and see "SECURITY" written on a shirt, they assume it means security.

"Whether it's here or anywhere, you want to be safe, that they're qualified to do their job," Davis said.

So when our I-Team found unlicensed security guards working at the Lady Antebellum Amphitheatre, Miller Theatre, James Brown Arena, USC Aiken, Western Carolina State Fair, and Kids Prompt Care, Davis was surprised.

"I work, I pay my taxes, so I would assume somebody in the right position should be looking over this making sure this right here is proper," Davis said.

A Georgia law (43-38-14.1) says counties are not allowed to grant business licenses to security companies unless they have a security company license with the state.

Gene Staulcup served on the Georgia Board of Private Detectives and Security Agencies for 12 years. He says the state license means a lot of things, but most importantly, that security companies are training and background checking their guards.

"In the law, in the code, it says no municipality, county government, political subdivision will issue a business license unless they are licensed by the board," Staulcup said.

So why did Columbia County issue the Security Guys, a company not licensed by the state, a county business license in 2015 and 2018 to operate as a "Security Guard and Patrol Service" business?

We tried multiple times to speak with the Columbia County licensing department on camera. They declined. They told us by email there is not a code in their system to license a company as event staff, so they went with security guard and patrol services "as an economical measuring tool."

The Security Guys control access points. They wear security shirts. By the state's definition, they are not event staff.

Even if they were event staff, the county is not allowed to write "Security Guards and Patrol Services" on their business license unless the company has a state license to do that.

But, here's why we care about the county issuing that license, and you should too. If I want to hire your company to do security, and you tell me, "We have a business license. We carry insurance. We do everything that we're supposed to be doing," as Brian Brady, the owner of the Security Guys explained to me. And you're able to produce an official county business license declaring you are a licensed security company, your state licensing is implied.

You trust the county to ask those questions. The state trusts the county to ask those questions. It's another layer of security in a law about security.

Brady claims no one ever asked him about state licensing until now.

Now, he's working with the Secretary of State's office to try to get the right license, but he's been operating unlicensed for over four years. That's four years of events, shows, and private security at dozens of venues around town.

"Look at the exposure the company has, the individual hiring the guards that's not licensed, and the possibility of something tragic happening," Staulcup points out.

It's a gamble with your safety and security.

As of Feb. 27, the Georgia Secretary of State's Office says the Security Guys are not licensed as a private security company. They have submitted an application to the Georgia Board of Private Detectives and Security Agencies, but there application has not been approved. A cease and desist order is still on file with the state of Georgia.