WASHINGTON -- A bribery scandal involving alleged payoffs from 10 Transportation Security Administration employees at Philadelphia International Airport for passing grades on annual proficiency exams calls into question the integrity of the system, a key member of Congress said Friday.
“If this bribery scheme could happen in Philadelphia, it could happen anywhere in the transportation security system," said Rep. Patrick Meehan, (R-Pa.), who chairs the House subcommittee on counterterrorism and intelligence. "TSA needs to report to Congress urgently on what it is doing to ensure the integrity of the TSA training and testing process. Nothing less than the public's confidence in our aviation security is at stake.”
Meehan issued his statement after the TSA said it plans to fire seven workers who are among 10 accused of paying bribes to an instructor last year to ensure a passing grade. Currently, they have been suspended pending investigation. Three of the employees already resigned.
The TSA said the alleged bribery came to light after an eight-month investigation. All the employees were removed from security duties in November 2011.
"TSA holds all of its employees to the highest standards of conduct and accountability," said Chris McLaughlin, assistant administrator for the Office of Security Operations, in a statement. "Any employee who willfully violates TSA rules will be held accountable for their conduct and appropriately disciplined. The decision to remove these employees affirms our strong commitment to our vital security mission and the safety of the traveling public."
The training instructor, Shannon Gilliam, 29, of Sharon Hill, Pa., pleaded guilty in federal court in February to taking a $200 bribe from a security officer. He was sentenced last week to 300 hours of community service and six months of house arrest, with four years probation.