Durant non-profit loses decades old contract to Canadian company

By: Victoria Maranan Email
By: Victoria Maranan Email

DURANT, OK-Big Five Community Services, a Durant non-profit, has lost a two decade old contract paying for employment services. Now, the director said agency staff who were helping people find jobs might be out of jobs themselves. And he believes there's an ulterior motive to the decision to revoke the contract.

Wednesday, we learned that the Southern Workforce Board has decided to outsource the employment service to a Canadian company, a service that's been provided by Big Five Community Services for the past 20 years. Big Five's Executive Director told us two former employees are currently serving on the Southern Workforce Board and claims they awarded the Integrated Services for Adults, Dislocated Worker and Youth Services Contract to another company, out of revenge.

Betty Kashou benefited from the Big Five Community Services under the Integrated Services for Adults, Dislocated Worker and Youth Services Program" for over 15 years and she said it's upsetting the program will no longer be provided by the agency.

"If you look around in the community, you realize that there's a lot of people who are struggling and need that helping hand and that program is one of them that give it," she said.

Big Five Executive Director, Kent Watson said the Southern Workforce Board awarded the contract for that program to Res-Care, owned by a Canadian company last week.
He said Big Five had that contract for 20 years and felt the decision was unfair.

"We think the community action should be serving the people of Texoma, not a bunch of suits from Canada," Watson said.

Watson said the decision could jeopardize services for the local unemployed and he feels it's an act of revenge by former employees.

"We've had two employees that leave our employment and go to work for Southern Workforce and all of a sudden we lose our contract. Now the question becomes, why did that happen? Why did we lose that contract so quickly in the most recent bid process?" Watson said.

We stopped by the Southern Workforce Board office, no one was available to comment. But its executive director, Kerry Manning, sent us a statement:

"The Board, at this time, is following the appropriate procurement process. The SWB will only enter into a contract that best serves our customers in out 14 county workforce region."

"We're outraged. We're in the business of serving people, we're not in the business of profit. And this is what this Canadian firm is all about, they're a for profit publicly traded entity," Watson said.

Watson said he's planning to appeal the bid to the Southern Workforce Board to find out why the contract was awarded to the Canadian company. He also said they've notified local lawmakers to look into the issue.


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