The Transportation Security Administration on Friday dismissed seven employees at Philadelphia International Airport for paying bribes to an instructor in exchange for passing annual proficiency exams.
TSA management at the Philadelphia airport removed 10 employees from security duties in November pending results of an investigation of bribery by the Homeland Security Department's Office of Inspector General.
Since then, three of the employees have resigned. The seven others were notified Friday of the TSA's intent to terminate their employment for professional misconduct. The TSA did not disclose their identities.
"A TSA training instructor responsible for administering annual proficiency exams was found to have accepted payment from TSA security officers to ensure passing grades," the TSA said in a statement.
The training manager, Shannon Gilliam, 29, of Sharon Hill, pleaded guilty Feb. 28 in U.S. District Court to a single count of bribery. Prosecutors said Gilliam was responsible for training TSA officers and administering mandatory certification to officers who handle passenger and baggage screening at the airport.
Gilliam was sentenced June 6 to four years of probation, with the first six months under house arrest, and 300 hours of community service.
"We found he was accepting bribes from security officers to ensure passing grades on their annual proficiency exam," a TSA spokesman said. "One was a supervisory transportation security officer, but the others were all transportation security officers."
After one officer failed the exam twice, according to court papers, Gilliam took him outside the testing room and offered to take the test for him in exchange for $200.
"Any employee who willfully violates TSA rules will be held accountable for their conduct and appropriately disciplined," said Chris McLaughlin, TSA assistant administrator for the office of security operations. "The decision to remove these employees affirms our strong commitment to our vital security mission and the safety of the traveling public."
U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan (R., Pa.) said in a statement: "While I appreciate TSA taking decisive action and making clear that such behavior will not be tolerated, this episode raises serious questions in the minds of the public."
"If this bribery scheme could happen in Philadelphia, it could happen anywhere in the transportation security system," added Meehan, who is chair of a Homeland Security 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."