Airport Security Contract up in Air at N.Y. Airports

The Port Authority is considering whether to renew its contract with a scandal-scarred security firm that supplies uniformed guards at Kennedy and LaGuardia airports.

Haynes Security, a Newark, N.J., company with a history of legal problems and security breaches, won an $89-million, four-year contract in 2003 for the two city airports. The contract expires in January, but the Port Authority's decision on renewal could come in a matter of weeks.

"We've provided years of quality service to the Port Authority and remain interested in continuing that," Haynes spokesman Michael Turner said.

The 500 unarmed Haynes guards provide general security at the two airports. All passenger and cargo screening is conducted by the federal Transportation Security Administration.

The Port Authority declined to comment other than to say the contract is under review.

In an unrelated case, the company's founder, John D'Agostino, pleaded guilty to deceptive business practices charges in June. He admitted to knowingly hiring convicted felons and failing to fingerprint personnel who worked as guards at the Public Service Enterprise Group, or PSEG, a New Jersey utility.

D'Agostino was forced to give up ownership of the company and paid a $250,000 fine. That case did not involve violations at the airports.

In March, a disoriented elderly man in a car was able to break through Haynes' security perimeter and drive onto the tarmac at Kennedy Airport.

In 2003, the Port Authority did not renew the company's contract at Newark Airport.

"Nowhere, no how, was the integrity of any of the region's airports ever compromised," Turner said.

Gene O'Donnell, a professor and security expert at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said it can be risky to rely on private companies to provide security at airports.

"If you leave it up to the private sector, profit is the overriding issue. It's bad public policy," O'Donnell said. "You may save money in the short run, but there are catastrophic implications for doing things on a shoestring."

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