Did the Transportation Security Administration pay law enforcement officers for work they didn't do at airports in Watertown, Ogdensburg and Massena?
According to a TSA administrative officer in Syracuse, the answer is yes.
Syracuse.com reports that Wayne Sparks complained about fraud, waste and abuse at airports in the Syracuse region.
According to the article, Sparks said the TSA spent more than $600,000 a year too much on local law enforcement officers at airports in Ogdensburg, Massena and Watertown.
"We were paying them for time they weren't there," Sparks was quoted as saying. "They were paid for eight hours when they were only there for two."
This happened over a four year period, Sparks said.
He told Syracuse.com that the TSA's practice of overpaying for police at those airports finally stopped in September 2011, but for almost a year, no one listened to his concerns.
The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department provides law enforcement at the airport in Watertown.
Sheriff John Burns said he believes there were no over-payments for his deputies.
He said the TSA contracted with the county to provide security at the airport in the 2003 or 2004.
Due to the number of flights, Burns said he requested four deputies for this detail and the TSA was billed for their services through the office of county Highway Superintendent and Airport Manager James Lawrence.
Burns said the four deputies were necessary due to the department's patrol shifts as well as the arrival and departure times of the planes.
According to Burns, a deputy would normally arrived at the airport about one hour prior to a plane's arrival for a perimeter check and then was present during the entire time the plane was on the ground.
The deputy remained there until the plane's departure.
Burns believes the initial reimbursement to the county was around $250,000, which he says was barley enough to cover the costs of the four deputies.
Burns said the TSA began cutting back on its reimbursements over the past 3 or 4 years to the point where the county could only fund one deputy for the airport security detail.
Burns said he hasn't had any problems with the TSA.
In Massena, the village police department handles the law enforcement presence at the airport.
Police Chief Timmy Currier declined to comment on Sparks' claims, saying his department is in the process of negotiating with the town of Massena over a new airport contract.
Ogdensburg Police Chief Richard Polniak was not immediately available for comment about his department's involvement with the airport in Ogdensburg.