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FAA Stain Yields Taxpayer Pain: Eleven Controllers Reinstated after Wrongful Termination - (12/13/2005)

WESTBURY, N.Y. – Ten of the 11 New York air traffic controllers reinstated by a federal arbitrator in a stinging defeat for the Federal Aviation Administration received a letter of reprimand but were not suspended, contrary to the FAA’s false and misleading statements in the New York media today.

The FAA wrongly fired the controllers in August in a brazen, but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to intimidate the workforce at the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control facility on Long Island. The settlement agreement from the arbitrator states: “The removal action is rescinded, they are to be returned to work forthwith … Further, the removal letters are to be replaced with letters of Official Reprimand for omission of information on FAA Form 8500-8s, said letters to be expunged from the Official Personnel files, on September 8, 2006 – a date nine (9) months from the oral entry of this Stipulated Award.”

The nine-month expiration date of the letters is significantly shorter than the usual two-year period for such letters, underscoring the relative insignificance of the offenses for which the controllers were wrongly punished.

“What we see today is the FAA trying to keep its chin up and put a very creative spin on what was actually a very harsh and embarrassing defeat,” National Air Traffic Controllers Association President John Carr said. “The case was so one-sided in our favor that we didn’t call a single witness. NATCA did not even put on a defense, relying solely on the agency’s witnesses to exonerate our people. The FAA folded like a cheap tent.”

Carr continued: “We will not let the FAA alter the facts and mislead the public into thinking that the agency has somehow snuffed out a case of abuse and misconduct here. Nothing could be further from the truth. Marion Blakey is fond of saying that facts are stubborn things. And in this case, the facts proved that the FAA maliciously smeared its own employees, wrongfully terminated them and deliberately put their families through hell.”

One of the agency’s own witnesses testified that these controllers were removed in order to institute a “culture change.” Carr was quick to note that, “the agency is changing the culture allright. But I don’t think it’s the culture change it was looking for.”

Carr concluded: “If anything, the Department of Transportation Inspector General should investigate the hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds wasted in this shameful and egregious abuse of power.”

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