Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta was forced to respond to questions about the growing scandal engulfing the FAA which was first reported in a FOX Business expose Trouble in the Skies. The latest reports allege that senior FAA managers are aware the agency is committing fraud and breaking the law.
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While attending the annual Experimental Aircraft Association air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Huerta was confronted by reporters on the issues, including the FOX Business report that the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is reviewing documents that detail the fraud which FAA sources say has cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
Huerta told aviation news website AVweb, “I think it is irresponsible to say that you are breaking the law when what you are basically doing is considering negotiating things you may not be required to.” Until now, the FAA has refused to respond to repeated requests for comment by FOX Business.
Huerta is referring to existing contracts with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, NATCA, the union representing 15,000 air traffic controllers. FOX Business obtained the documents Congress is reviewing. They include confidential letters and papers from the FAA’s former Director of Labor and Employee Relations, David Feder. The FAA hired him in January 2015 to prepare for negotiations with NATCA. Earlier this week, FOX Business exclusively reported that Feder unexpectedly resigned after just six months on the job. FAA sources say Feder was disgusted with FAA senior managers who refused to nullify clauses in existing contracts which break the law and are costing taxpayers millions of dollars in falsely accounted wages and overtime.
One of the documents being reviewed by congress and obtained by FOX Business says, “The FAA is currently committing a fraud against the Department of Transportation, the Office of Personnel Management and the Congress by knowingly, willingly and intentionally under reporting the amount of official time granted to NATCA representatives.”
Official time is a legal program which permits federal employees, who are members of unions, to conduct union business on federal time at taxpayer expense. The documents obtained by FOX Business indicate FAA Sr. Managers are allowing NATCA members to abuse the program by falsely reporting, to other Federal agencies, the accurate amount of time NATCA members are working.
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Huerta also said, “The labor relations act sets out a framework of things which must be negotiated and then creates an overall framework for you to evaluate what is the full scope of things that you want to incorporate in your contract.” But an FAA source who wishes to remain anonymous says Huerta is misleading the public because the illegal clauses allowing the fraud to continue have already been negotiated and the FAA refuses to strike them from existing contracts, “The FAA has already negotiated things that the Federal sector labor law holds you may not negotiate and is considering to continue those illegal clauses in to the next contract.”
Huerta says the FAA is trying to create a collaborative relationship with its labor unions. “Why would we want to adopt a very adversarial old school sort of relationship” he asked? But among the explosive documents being reviewed by Congress is one which says the, “FAA buys labor peace by allowing NATCA to co-manage the Agency.” Huerta says, “It’s a question of how we build bridges, not walls.”