Congressman wants hearings about TSA workplace issues at DIA

written by: Deborah Sherman posted by: Colleen Locke Date last updated: 4/11/2009 9:09:52 AM Smaller Larger Print Article Close Page
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DENVER - U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter (D-Colorado) is asking the House Homeland Security committee to hold hearings about problems with security screeners at Denver International Airport that were exposed by 9Wants to Know last week.

Multiple screeners with the Transportation Security Administration, TSA, in Denver told 9Wants to Know Reporter Deborah Sherman that upper management plays favorites, engages in nepotism, and harasses, intimidate and retaliates against screeners they don't like and want to get rid of.

9Wants to Know also obtained an internal report about the TSA in Denver which said screeners have lost faith in their managers to secure the airport. A Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General report in May 2008 also highlighted some of the same complaints other TSA employees have nationwide.

Transportation Security Officers or TSOs say the work environment is so stressful at DIA because of the harassment they can not fully concentrate on their main job of screening passengers and luggage.

"TSOs cannot afford to be wrong even once, so if these allegations are true, it indicates many TSOs might be more concerned about issues unrelated to security as they conduct their jobs," Rep. Perlmutter wrote in a letter to three leaders of the committee Thursday.

Police and complaint records show someone who had access to secure areas put a dead rat in a supervisor's locker who had a phobia of rodents, pepper-sprayed her and another employee as they were leaving work, spiked their car tires and smashed their windshields in an employee lot at DIA.

"Security cannot be maintained when officers fear retaliation for their conduct," wrote Rep. Perlmutter, who is on a homeland security rules committee. "We must provide TSA with the tools to appropriately investigate wrongdoing, increase on-the-job training and foster an environment of cohesion, effectiveness and security above all else."

Perlmutter told the committee members that while single alleged incidents are worrisome, collective allegations represent a national concern about the morale of the TSA workforce, which has ranked lowest of all federal agencies.

"During my tenure on the committee on Homeland Security, we did a great deal to address these matters, but this report illustrates that on the ground level, some problems may persist," wrote Perlmutter.

9NEWS has talked to dozens of current and former screeners. More than 17 of them say they've been accused or have accused others falsely of sexual harassment at the direction of managers who want the person who is being accused to leave the agency.

"Sexual harassment accusations are a tool to get rid of people," one current screener told 9Wants to Know.

The TSA has not responded to the allegations and could not tell 9NEWS how many TSOs have been involved in sexual harassment issues at DIA.

Screeners blame their workplace problems on acting Federal Security Director Bill Allen and acting Assistant Federal Security Director Al Myers. Both have refused to talk to 9NEWS about any of the issues and allegations. The TSA in Washington, DC has also refused to grant any interviews about the subject to 9NEWS. While Allen won't talk about the workplace morale issues, he has called multiple press conferences in the past to discuss things such as new bomb-sniffing dogs at DIA.

In the letter asking for hearings into the issues, Perlmutter said he has been impressed with the performance of security screeners and added that the allegations are in no way reflective of individual performance or even that of the entire agency.

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