HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – The Transportation Security Administration is paying a financial settlement to Glen Kajiyama, the former federal security director in charge of TSA operations at Honolulu International Airport who was one of 36 TSA employees fired in a baggage screening scandal last year.
Kajiyama had appealed his firing as "unfair" and the TSA settled his case just days before a hearing was scheduled to begin last month.
In June 2011, the TSA fired 36 employees at the airport after an investigation found they failed to properly screen checked baggage for explosives over several months at the end of 2010. TSA employees assigned to the morning shift in HNL's Lobby 4 allowed unscreened luggage to get onto aircraft, affecting flights by Delta Airlines, Korean Air and other major carriers, sources said.
Five managers were among those fired, including Kajiyama, the head of HNL's 700-person TSA operation. He is a former deputy police chief who spent 30 years with the Honolulu Police Department.
The TSA charged him with "negligent or careless behavior," as justification for his firing, according to his lawyer.
"Mr. Kajiyama did no wrong, in fact he was above and beyond the call of doing the right thing," said his attorney Elbridge Smith, who specializes in representing federal employees in labor disputes. "And he got caught up, I think, in the adverse publicity in which they felt they got to roll some heads to make themselves look good."
"We were quite confident that, going forward, the government would not be able to prove its case," Smith added.
The TSA settled his case on July 16, just days before a hearing was to begin in Honolulu. An administrative judge from California had already arrived to hear the case, Smith said. As part of the agreement, Kajiyama is allowed to retire with federal benefits and TSA is paying him a financial settlement that Smith said he cannot disclose because of a confidentiality agreement with the TSA.
Kajiyama was paid more than $150,000 a year. He will be allowed to retire from the TSA on Aug. 16, on the same day he vests with the agency after five years on the job and receives full benefits, Smith said.
"Nobody could really identify what is that they said that Glen Kajiyama did that he shouldn't have done. Or what did he not do that he should have done," Smith said.
Smith said the TSA official who decided to fire Kajiyama never consulted Kajiyama's immediate mainland supervisor before deciding on his discipline and ignored the recommendations of other mainland airport security directors who reviewed the case and said Kajiyama was not negligent.
"TSA almost took the position for Mr. Kajiyama that almost like he personally and the other managers had to be there 24-7, 365 and watch and you don't. That's why you have supervisors, that's why you have other managers and have a process you expect to work and when it doesn't work you find them, you take out the violators and you correct the problem," Smith said.
Smith claimed the TSA official who made the final decision on Kajiyama's discipline never read the interviews of dozens of Honolulu TSA employees who said they too didn't know about the wrongdoing because those involved covered up their improper with the help of mid-level supervisors.
Smith said Kajiyama will begin a new private-sector management job in the security field shortly.
Another fired HNL TSA manager, deputy assistant federal security director Adam Myers, also appealed his dismissal and the TSA settled his case in July month for an unknown amount of money, a source said. Myers has since gone to work managing an Oahu pet store outlet.
Of the other 34 TSA workers fired, three got their jobs back, two others are still appealing their firings and three of them chose to retire or resign, sources said.
A TSA spokesman confirmed the settlements but declined comment, saying the agency respects the privacy of all former and current employees.
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