The US Transportation Security Administration is recommending a $10,000 fine against Chicago's Aviation Department for handcuffing and detaining three TSA employees conducting an undercover inspection at O'Hare Airport.
The TSA inspectors allegedly were stopped earlier this year by unarmed Aviation security officers who guard O'Hare's perimeter checkpoints to prevent unauthorized access to the tarmac and back areas at O'Hare. The federal inspectors were handcuffed, and the Aviation security officers refused to let them go even after they identified themselves as undercover federal inspectors assigned to test the limits of the system.
"It's still under investigation. . . . We can't fine anybody if the investigation is not complete," TSA spokesman Elio Montenegro.
Pressed to describe the circumstances that led up to the detention of federal inspectors, he said, "On a regular basis, inspectors check the perimeter of the airport and all checkpoints to make sure we're all following standard operating procedures at O'Hare. Then, we sit down with our local law enforcement partners, go over the results and discuss issues we may have to improve security."
O'Hare security chief Jim Maurer could not be reached.
"We followed protocol regarding unauthorized entry into a secure area at the airport. No fine has been assessed" yet by the TSA, Aviation Department spokeswoman Karen Pride said.
The TSA inspection controversy is the second recent embarrassment for Maurer, a former chief of patrol for the Chicago Police Department.
Last year, Maurer was investigated by the inspector general for allegedly allowing his son to park his car at Post 10 — a secured area adjacent to O'Hare Terminal 3 — during a two-week vacation.
Sources said Inspector General David Hoffman accused Maurer of providing a "blatant perk for a family member" and recommended that the O'Hare security chief be suspended from his $123,396-a-year city job for up to two weeks.
Maurer claimed the city had no policies prohibiting the parking perk. Pride said he received a written reprimand and was forced to reimburse the city for the cost of parking at O'Hare for a two-week period, as Hoffman had recommended. But Maurer was not suspended.