HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Former Honolulu Transportation Security Administration manager Olivier Jodloman said he felt like he was "vindicated" when he heard the news Monday that an administrative judge reinstated him to his job after the TSA fired him following a baggage checking scandal.
Jodloman was one of 36 TSA employees at Honolulu International Airport fired last year after an investigation found some TSA employees allowed checked luggage to be loaded onto aircraft for several months without being screened for explosives at the end of 2010.
"I felt that firing all the management team at Honolulu Airport was just unreasonable. These men didn't have any knowledge of what a small group of security officers did when checking bags," said his lawyer, Todd Withy. Jodloman appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board in Washington, D.C., and Withy said an administrative law judge sided with his client, reinstating him with back pay to September of last year when he was fired from his $62,000-a-year job.
"They had no evidence that these individual managers knew what was going on. These security officers obviously hid what they were doing. And they were just trying not to work hard, basically," Withy said.
Jodloman said he was one of the 59 original screeners hired in Honolulu in 2002, when TSA was created in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks. He recently worked as a training supervisor and oversaw nine checked baggage checkpoints when he was fired in September 2011, after nearly ten years on the job.
A federal audit found mainland TSA officials held up sending critical equipment to Honolulu needed to screen baggage for explosives for more than two years, gear that sat in a mainland warehouse before finally arriving in late 2010.
"There was no equipment until December of 2010, so we made use of what we have, the manpower that we have, the equipment that we have to safeguard the flying public," Jodloman said.
His lawyer said TSA higher ups made managers in Honolulu scapegoats.
"The blame certainly should have certainly been shared a lot higher than it was and it was unfair to focus on these particular employees," Withy said.
Withy represented Jodloman's direct supervisor, Deputy Assistant Federal Security Director Adam Myers, who also appealed his dismissal. In July, Myers settled his case for an amount of money that must remain secret as part of the settlement agreement, Withy said.
Honolulu's former Federal Security Director Glen Kajiyama, who was also fired by the TSA, won a financial settlement and federal retirement benefits in July, according to his attorney, Elbridge Smith. Kajiyama's settlement amount was also kept secret, according to terms of the agreement with the feds, Smith said.
Jodloman said he looks forward to returning to work.
"I treated everybody fairly. I think I did my duties as a transportation security manager, and I would like to walk that airport again with my head up high," he said. The TSA could still chose to appeal his case.
Of the 33 other TSA workers fired, three got their jobs back, another TSA manager is waiting to hear the outcome of his appeal and three employees chose to retire or resign, sources said.
Screeners said two years ago, because HNL's lobby four lacked the proper screening equipment for explosives, TSA workers had to ferry checked luggage more than 500 feet away – in heavy passenger traffic – to screen them for explosives. They were supposed to hand-check bags that did not go through screening equipment, something some workers did not do, resulting in the investigation and firings.
But screeners described an almost-impossible task during high-traffic check-in periods at the airport, with luggage piling up and pressure to allow planes to depart on time.
Screeners said that lobby contained many international departures on which passengers carried large amounts of checked bags since they tended to travel for longer trips overseas. The lobby houses international airlines including Philippine Air, Korean Air, Qantas, Air Canada, China Airlines, and Air New Zealand.