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Des Moines halts contract raise after racial remarks surface

July 19, 2021 GMT

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Des Moines will no longer consider doubling the funding for a private security firm after a newspaper investigation revealed its top official had referred to local racial justice protests as “terrorism” and made denigrating remarks about Black activists.

The move comes after a Des Moines Register investigation into comments by Tom Conley, president and CEO of the Des Moines-based Conley Group, in emails to city officials and on his Facebook page.

City manager Scott Sanders said he had instructed the city clerk to remove from Monday’s City Council agenda a proposal to allocate $550,000 for the firm’s services, more than doubling the contract signed in October, the Des Moines Register reported.

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“Remarks attributed to Mr. Conley that recently came to light are concerning and inconsistent with the culture and practices of the City of Des Moines,” Sanders said.

He said while the city is satisfied with the professionalism the firm’s services, the comments must be “properly investigated.”

The firm provides security services for several municipal and school buildings.

Conley stood by his opinion that last summer’s protests should be considered terrorism.

“If somebody doesn’t want to do business with me because of my opinions, then don’t … I’m just a candid individual, Conley said.