TSA: hostile work environment in Syracuse

by Lisa Simeone on March 14, 2013

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In another case of whistleblowing, a TSA administrator in Syracuse, New York has accused his supervisor of creating a hostile work environment.

The administrator’s name is Wayne Sparks. A few years ago, he started complaining about fraud, waste, and abuse at Syracuse area airports. Although he went up the chain of command, his claims didn’t go over so well with his boss, Daniel Liddell:

In 2009, the TSA’s Office of Inspection found that Liddell, Syracuse’s federal security director, created a hostile work environment by threatening to fire employees, publicly belittling them, and routinely using profanity when he yelled at them, according to an email about the report from Wayne Sparks, TSA’s administrative officer in Syracuse.

The inspectors found that Liddell “is militaristic, inflexible, a poor listener, and impatient with employees,” Sparks wrote in the email, which he sent to two U.S. senators in the hope they would intervene. Sparks recently provided the email to The Post-Standard.

The Office of Inspection returned to Syracuse in 2010 and found improvement, Sparks said. But after that, conditions returned to the way they were and in some cases got worse, he said.

“They treat these people (federal security directors) like princes within the government,” said Sparks, who’s been assigned to Syracuse for five years. “They let them do whatever they want.”

I applaud Sparks for speaking up, but you have to admit there’s a certain poetic justice here: Liddell created hostile conditions for his employees. Kind of like the conditions the TSA creates for passengers.

There’s the familiar bullying, verbal harassment, power-tripping, and, of course, retaliation. The difference is the TSA agents being bullied were able to leave — which they did, in droves:

In the month leading up to Liddell’s departure, eight to 10 TSA screeners either quit or were fired as a result of Liddell’s decisions, Sparks said. That resulted in a turnover of about 9 percent of the workforce within a month in Syracuse, he said.

Passengers, alas, aren’t so lucky. Neither are taxpayers.

Needless to say, the TSA had no comment.

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