posted by: Jeffrey Wolf written by: Deborah Sherman Date last updated: 4/4/2009 10:12:37 PM
DENVER - Rep. Ed Perlmutter says allegations about threats, attacks and harassment of security screeners at Denver International Airport are very disturbing and will be investigated because they could put passengers at risk.
"If you have someone stabbing you in the back, if you have sex harassment charges against you, your mind is not going to be on the job," Perlmutter (D-Colorado) said. "And this is a job where you have to be alert. All the time."
Perlmutter decided to take the issues before the House Homeland Security Committee after watching a 9Wants to Know investigation about low morale and high attrition inside the Transportation Security Administration at DIA. The attrition rate in the TSA in Denver is 16.6 percent and 19.1 percent nationally. That's higher than attrition rates inside almost every other federal agency.
Dozens of current and former TSA officers and an internal TSA report about DIA say that the workforce perceives management and leadership teams as "inconsistent, antagonistic, lacking integrity and unfair."
Screeners describe a high school clique type of environment where they play along with whatever managers tell them to do or managers discipline them and make false accusations until the screeners leave.
"You were harassed if you did not cooperate and verbally threatened if you don't keep your mouth shut about it," Kristen Slaten said, a former screener at DIA. "This has been a good ol' boys network."
While at work, two screeners had their tires slashed, their windshields broken and were pepper-sprayed on DIA property during 2006, according to internal TSA reports and Denver Police reports. Someone also left a dead rat inside a screener's locker who was known to have a severe phobia of rodents. The screener's locker was in a secured area that only TSA employees could access.
"I think it was another act of violence towards me to make me quit and move on," said former screener Ingrid Cartinelle, who vomited and fainted after she discovered the dead rat.
Perlmutter, who travels a lot, thinks security screeners have been doing a better job than ever before of finding dangerous weapons. However, he says how screeners are allegedly being treated is not right. Perlmutter say the actions could compromise security and cost money.
"If there's this kind of pressure and harassment and assaults, then you're going to lose people and all of this training is for naught," Perlmutter said.
The top two leaders of the TSA in Denver, Federal Security Director Bill Allen and Deputy Security Director Al Myers, will not answer questions or agree to give an interview to 9NEWS.
"All of these arrangements are made through public affairs," Allen said. "I'm referring you to our public affairs [department]."
Public affairs for the TSA sent 9NEWS this statement Friday:
"TSA is proud of its employees, who work tirelessly to protect travelers each day at Denver International Airport. TSA Denver employs more than 850 individuals and is prohibited by the Federal Privacy Act from addressing specific allegations or discussing individual employment histories. The agency holds all of its employees to the highest professional and ethical standards. TSA investigates all allegations of misconduct, and if warranted, takes appropriate action. The dedication of the majority of those who work at TSA Denver is reflected in attrition rates that are below the national average."
(Copyright KUSA*TV. All rights reserved.)