Public records request by The Guardian revealed that zero (0) employment applications were received by Tampa International Airport for an unadvertised $223,000 per year position as Vice President of Marketing. Former TV anchor Veronica Cintron was hired for the position on April 10th, even though also she did not apply for employment.
HCCA, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, is the public agency that runs the airport. Our previous reporting on Cintron’s hiring has shown that the HCAA didn’t advertise the position. In addition, the HCAA violated several aspects of its own hiring policy in hiring Cintron.
Because Cintron did not actually apply for the job, she also never signed a statement other applicants for positions at HCAA have to sign in which they “certify that the information contained in this application is correct and complete to the best of my knowledge and understanding.”
The Guardian reported in March on other $200,000+ per year public sector employees in the Tampa Bay area also not having to fill out employment applications before landing their plum jobs.
Lower level workers in those same public agencies must certify that the information they provide on their application is true and complete, while top management exempts itself and other top management from the same requirement. HCAA’s human resource department did just that for Cintron.
Such lax hiring practices can lead to claims of bias, and also needlessly expensive firings. One purpose of a signed and certified employment application is to hold the prospective employee accountable for the information they provide through the certification statement.
Such lax practices can also lead to costly public records lawsuits. Because Cintron was not a “job applicant,” as the term is defined in Florida’s “Drug-free workplace program” statute (440.12), Cintron’s drug test results are a public record available to all. The test results would be exempt from disclosure if she had been a “job applicant.”
The statute is clear: a “job applicant means a person who has applied for a position.” If the person has not applied, then they are not a job applicant.
The HCCA has refused to release Cintron’s drug test results to the Guardian, claiming that those records ar exempt from disclosure. The HCAA has not explained how Cintron could have been a “job applicant” when she didn’t fill out a job application, or in any other way apply for employment.
The Guardian is vigorously pursuing release of Cintron’s drug test results, not because we expect to find evidence of drug use. We do it because sham hiring processes have consequences.
HCAA’s own projection shows that the passenger count will be 40% less for its fiscal year than ends on September 30th. The decline from April through September is projected to be more than 90%. Yet at HCAA, 14 of its 625 employees are paid over $220,000 per year. Plus generous benefits.
Despite a slight uptick so far in May, demand for air travel worldwide in still more over 90% lower than before the coronavirus pandemic began. The decline isn’t due to government regulations, it’s due to a lack of consumer demand. The consequences have been devastating for most travel-related businesses.
JetBlue has sought to suspend air service to TPA through September. United Airlines plans to cut 30% of management. Hertz has until Friday to come up with $400 million or face bankruptcy. Tripadvisor has already cut its staff by 25%, and will “temporarily” cut the pay of remaining staff and reduce their hours.
These are just some of many headlines involving reduced operations, job cuts and pay reductions in the travel industry. Yet during the same time, the HCAA instead added to its roster of employees paid over $220,000 per year. As mentioned before, that number now stands at 14.
8 of those 14 HCAA employees are paid over $300,000 per year. By comparison, Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill is paid $282,000 a year as the head of an organization of 5,000 employees. HCAA CEO Joe Lopano is paid $509,000 a year to head an organization of 625 employees.
Merrill thus manages eight times the number of employees that Lopano does, yet only receives about half the pay of Lopano. In addition, Lopano has at least seven people working for him who are paid more than Merrill.
Generous salaries and benefits continue to be provided, despite the airport’s aforementioned own projection of a dire future.
Why do so many public sector employees at HCAA have to be paid so much? Why do they keep adding to their extremely well compensated staff? Do they work for the City of Bell?
As always….the Guardian reports and our readers decide. Like our Facebook page to find out when we publish articles.