TSA agents at Newark spared from firings after violations

TSA agents at Newark spared from firings after violations
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Saturday, March 30, 2013 - 1:24pm

A number of Transportation Security Administrator employees who faced dismissal for not following screening procedures ended up with suspensions instead, the agency said.

In October, TSA announced that 44 employees were facing punishments ranging from termination to suspension after they were caught on surveillance cameras not following procedures. Twenty-five of those employees were in the process of being fired.

This week, the agency completed the reviews of those cases, except for one, and only four workers have been fired.

"The decision to take disciplinary actions as a result of a thorough investigation reaffirms our strong commitment to hold all of our employees to the highest standards of conduct and accountability -- regardless of their rank in the agency," TSA said in a statement. "It also goes to TSA's commitment to its due process procedures and demonstrates the agency's dedication to treating employees in a fair and just manner."

Several of the employees had learned of their fates in the months since October, but the majority of decisions were made this week.

In all, four employees were fired, one resigned, 32 were suspended to varying degrees, six were cleared of wrongdoing, and one case remains outstanding, the agency told CNN.

That means that 17 employees who were originally going to be fired were instead suspended "because it was determined that they did not intentionally violate procedures associated with checked baggage screening," TSA said.

The 44 employees all worked in a checked-baggage screening room in Terminal B of Newark's Liberty International Airport.

In November and December of 2011, they were caught on surveillance cameras not following proper screening protocols, an agency internal investigation revealed.

After passengers check their bags, TSA screeners are supposed to search the luggage with electronic scanners and open some bags by hand. In this case, the employees allegedly didn't follow procedures on about 250 bags during the two months, the agency said. All bags did receive some screening, however.

In June 2012, the same investigation prompted the agency to fire eight checked-baggage screeners at Newark for violating TSA procedures, including some of them for sleeping on the job.

That same month, 43 TSA workers in Fort Myers, Florida, were disciplined for not performing additional screening on random passengers and carry-on bags.

At Boston's Logan Airport, 20 checked-baggage screeners were punished in August 2011 for reading newspapers or talking on the phone when they were supposed to be screening bags, or for not reporting the misconduct, a spokesperson told CNN at the time.

Also in 2011, 36 checked-bag screeners in Hawaii were fired after they were caught on a security camera in 2010 ignoring procedures, including putting bag inspection notices in bags without actually inspecting them, an inspector general's report said.

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CNN's Jordana Ossad and Aaron Cooper contributed to this report.

 

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