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"Ousted Newark FSD kept getting salary for 10 months"
Friday, January 19, 2007
TSA chief at airport paid after his ouster
Arroyo kept getting salary for 10 months
BY RON MARSICO
The Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger
The former head of security at Newark Liberty International Airport
continued to draw his $156,752 federal salary until early January, even
though he was ousted from his job nearly 10 months earlier, a federal
official has confirmed.
Marcus Arroyo, who was replaced March 9, 2006, after a series of security
lapses at the airport, filed retirement papers effective Jan. 3, said Ann
Davis, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Transportation Security Administration.
What Arroyo was doing for the TSA after he was replaced is unclear.
According to agency officials, he was given the choice of retiring
immediately or being reassigned.
Davis declined comment this week when asked about Arroyo's role. But in an
interview in October, she said he had not accepted any new assignments or
performed any duties for the TSA in the six months after his departure.
Reached by telephone at his Westchester, N.Y., home last week, Arroyo, 56,
declined to talk about his retirement.
"I'm in the middle of something right now. Have a nice day," he said before
Arroyo took over the Newark job in mid-2002 with hopes of improving security
in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, in which Newark Airport was
one of three airports the terrorists used to hijack planes. But his tenure
was marred by security breaches, missed deadlines and poor morale --
problems that mirrored those plaguing the TSA nationwide.
The agency was created by Congress after 9/11 to take over airport security
from private contractors. But the TSA has experienced consistently poor test
scores by screeners, serious security breaches and severe staffing
Paul Light, a New York University professor of public service, said that
paying a healthy federal employee for nearly 10 months when that person is
not on the job "is not common at all" and "raises questions of appearance"
for the TSA.
"These are lean times for agencies, including the TSA," Light said. "I think
if someone is relieved of command, they should get out. The federal
government does not provide severance agreements to its employees."
A federal official with knowledge of personnel matters agreed that the
situation seemed highly unusual. However, he said it was possible for a
federal employee to be left on the payroll if he was unable to work for
health reasons. He said retiring officials also may extend their time on the
payroll with unused vacation time, but that typically lasts no more than a
Arroyo, a former Navy Seal who was wounded in Vietnam, spent the bulk of his
career with the Federal Aviation Administration. Before joining the TSA, he
served as head of eastern regional security for the FAA.
During his tenure, Newark Airport missed by nearly 18 months a deadline from
Congress to ensure that 100 percent of checked luggage was screened
electronically for explosives. The TSA reached compliance in May 2004.
In October 2004, confidential inspection reports showed that airport
screeners missed one in four fake bombs, guns and knives that internal
agents attempted to sneak past checkpoints in weekly tests between June and
Some problems were beyond Arroyo's control: TSA officials at the agency's
Virginia headquarters, for example, scaled back his allotted force of
screeners, even though Newark Airport already was suffering from short
In April 2005, an internal TSA management report sharply criticized the
performance of Arroyo and his then-top deputy, Raymond Whalen, according to
agency officials familiar with the findings at the time. Arroyo and Whalen
were accused of "critical shortcomings on personnel matters and disciplinary
actions," according to one of the officials.
This past March, after resisting suggestions from management that he retire,
Arroyo was visited by Maggie Rhodes, then the agency's eastern area
director, at his Newark office and told he must retire or be reassigned,
according to TSA officials. Days earlier, top TSA officials at the agency's
Virginia headquarters learned that a required security plan for Newark
Airport had not been finished.
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