House Oversight slams TSA after report says officials 'interfered' in disciplinary case

House Oversight slams TSA after report says officials 'interfered' in disciplinary case
© Greg Nash

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday slammed the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) over the findings in a new watchdog report that said TSA officials “interfered” in the agency’s disciplinary system.

The report, conducted by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General, included information from nine witnesses after the Oversight committee in 2016 requested an examination of the disciplinary process used for one employee.

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“Today’s report by the Inspector General confirms senior staff at the Transportation Security Administration intentionally bypassed their own rules and provided ‘unusually favorable treatment’ to a senior executive who had been recommended for removal on the basis of his misconduct,” House Oversight Chairman Trey GowdyHarold (Trey) Watson GowdyGOP chairmen say they have deal with Justice on documents Overnight Energy: Dems raise new questions about Pruitt's security | EPA rules burning wood is carbon neutral | Fourth GOP lawmaker calls for Pruitt's ouster | Court blocks delay to car efficiency fines Dems: Pruitt’s office security sweep was subpar MORE (R-S.C.) and ranking member Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsOvernight Energy: Dems raise new questions about Pruitt's security | EPA rules burning wood is carbon neutral | Fourth GOP lawmaker calls for Pruitt's ouster | Court blocks delay to car efficiency fines Dems: Pruitt’s office security sweep was subpar The Hill's Morning Report: Inside the Comey memos MORE (D-Md.) said in a statement.

Gowdy and Cummings called on the agency to apply the report’s suggestions, but also to guard “the rights of whistleblowers.”

“The Committee will continue to investigate allegations of misconduct, mismanagement, and whistleblower retaliation to ensure we hold TSA officials accountable for their actions,” the lawmakers said.

The statement comes after the inspector general last week released a report which found “significant deviations from policy and standard practice” on the part of TSA officials in handling the disciplinary case of an individual referred to as “TSES Employee.” Those practices, according to the report, provided the employee with “unusually favorable treatment.”

“TSA senior leaders deviated from standard policy and practice in a number of key respects indicating that the TSES Employee received unusually favorable treatment in the resolution of his disciplinary matter,” the report said.

“Our review specifically found that former Deputy Administrator Mark Hatfield, Chief Counsel Francine Kerner, and former Office of Professional Responsibility Assistant Administrator Heather Book each interfered with the disciplinary process in a way that circumvented the very TSA policies and procedures that were established to prevent favoritism in such circumstances.”

Cummings and former Rep. Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzIngraham’s ratings spike a wake-up for advertisers Boehner to campaign for House GOP candidates Americans want to protect public lands, Congress should listen MORE (R-Utah), who at the time chaired the committee, in an April 2016 letter to former TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger said the employee's punishment had been minimized after the individual was suggested for termination. The lawmakers requested information on the procedures used for the employee’s penalty, in addition to an inspector general probe.

The resulting report, released nearly two years later, suggests that the agency tackle the “irregularities” with the individuals who still work for the TSA and were involved in this disciplinary proceeding.

“By so doing, TSA will be better positioned to accomplish its stated aim of “ensuring that the disciplinary process treats all TSA employees the same regardless of title or position,” the report said.