Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Port Authority Dumps Security Firm Over ID Snafu

Last week, it came to light that a security supervisor at Newark Liberty Airport turned out to be an illegal alien who used an identification stolen from a man who nearly two decades ago. No one - not the security firm, not the Port Authority, not the TSA - knew that this had occurred until a whistleblower came forward and tipped off the Port Authority inspector general's office.

Now, we're seeing the beginning of the fallout from the mess. The Port Authority is dumping the security firm, FJC Security, and opening up the contract to new bidders.
PA officials told The Post they are troubled by a long list of security foul-ups by FJC, capped by last week’s arrest of Peter “Bimbo” Oyewole, who used the identity of a homicide victim to land his sensitive job and pass repeated background checks.

“Recent serious lapses are unacceptable,” said PA Executive Director Pat Foye. “The entire security function at the PA is under review, including our current private security vendor.”

FJC has done work for the Port Authority since 2003 and employs roughly 1,000 people throughout the PA’s system, which includes the region’s airports, the Hudson River crossings, the World Trade Center and the PATH train line. The firm is going to be kept in place until the PA can hire a replacement, officials said.

The company yesterday vowed to reapply for the lucrative PA work, even as it acknowledged its failures.

“We have a tremendous track record, including many successes that the public never hears about for important security reasons,” said FJC spokesman Michael McKeon. “The incidents cited by the [PA] are indeed unacceptable, which is why FJC has always taken proactive steps to improve operations whenever an issue has arisen.”

Oyewole, 55, was busted May 14 after the PA’s inspector general received a tip the security boss was posing as Jerry Thomas since 1992, when Thomas — then a 41-year-old career criminal — was killed in a YMCA shooting in Queens.
Some at the Port Authority have also questioned whether FJC security officers at the GWB could have stopped Tyler Clementi from jumping from the bridge to his death.

That FJC thinks that it can and should rebid for the job (or that the Port Authority might even consider such a bid) tells you plenty about the security situation at the region's ports, bridges, tunnels, and airports. What's particularly troubling is that the identity that Oyewole stole was that of a career criminal - and yet no one thought there was anything troubling about the identification for nearly two decades. No one running background checks spotted anything wrong with hiring a career criminal as a supervisor.

What we've got here is a serious failure by all those responsible for the hiring of Oyewole using Thomas' identification. That includes FJC that originally hired him, as well as the Port Authority and TSA, who each should have conducted their own background checks. It seems that everyone involved relied on someone other than themselves for insuring that everyone was who they said that they were and in the process no one did.

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