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Company Sues Over Losing Airport Security Contracts


 
Company Sues Over Losing Airport Security Contracts
St. Louis Dispatch, MO

11/14/2003


Huntleigh USA Corp., which lost business when the federal government took
over security screening of airline passengers, filed a lawsuit Friday
claiming an unconstitutional "taking" of its property.

After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Congress created the
Transportation Security Administration to take over work previously done
by contractors "subject to payment of adequate compensation to parties to
the contract."

Huntleigh, based in Creve Coeur, claims TSA failed to compensate it for
the value of its business as a "going concern." Its suit says the TSA
violated both the law and the Constitution by taking private property
without just compensation.

The case was filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington.

"The taking of Huntleigh's security business without any payment is not
only unconstitutional, it's unfair," Huntleigh President Joe Tuero said in
a prepared statement.

"One day we had a growing, thriving security company, the next day we were
being forced to shut down that business. That's not how our country is
supposed to work."

Huntleigh was one of the nation's four largest airline screening services,
with contracts at 47 airports - including Lambert Field, Los Angeles
International and New York's La Guardia.

It lost 3,000 screeners, most of its work force, leaving behind skycap,
wheelchair and janitorial services, said spokesman Robert Bork Jr. He
declined to release revenue figures.

TSA spokeswoman Amy von Walter said she could not comment on the specific
allegations. No other airline screening company has filed such a suit, she
noted.

The agency was surprised to learn that many of the contracts Huntleigh and
other companies held with airlines were up for renewal every 30 days, von
Walter said.

In February last year, the TSA assumed control of those contracts from the
airlines and paid the security companies for their continuing work, she
said. That November, the contracts were allowed to expire as TSA employees
took over screening work directly.

Huntleigh has been sued in scores of cases claiming screening failures by
its workers at Boston's Logan Airport, where two of the jets used in the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks took off. Huntleigh denies any liability in
those cases.

For years, airline screening businesses had been widely accused of poor
wages and poor training that led to poor work. A federal report in 2000
said St. Louis had the nation's highest annual turnover rate for screeners
- 416 percent.

The suit Friday is not the first conflict between Huntleigh and the TSA.
The company disclosed in September that it was in dispute over a contract
payment from last year.

TSA claims it overpaid Huntleigh by $32 million, while Huntleigh claims it
was underpaid by $28.8 million, according to a financial report by
Huntleigh's parent company, ICTS International N.V., of the Netherlands.

Huntleigh claims it is owed, among other things, a $10.5 million
"corporate bonus."


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