TAMPA — Tampa International Airport should take whatever steps are needed to boost security and improve communication between airport and airline employees and the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority board, board member Victor Crist said Thursday.
Crist, who also is a Hillsborough county commissioner, responded to a Thursday article in The Tampa Tribune outlining security concerns by airline employees who work at the airport.
More than three dozen employees told the Tribune that security at the employee parking lot is lax, including access to a shuttle bus that crosses a runway on the way to the main terminal. The parking lot is not fully enclosed by a fence, and shuttle bus drivers do not check all IDs, they said — points airport officials acknowledge and said Thursday they are reviewing.
“The nature of the airport is to be ahead of the game, not behind,” Crist said. “First and most important is to ensure the safety of the public, our employees and employees of vendors.”
Crist said he plans to get information on those issues and the airport’s response from Tampa International Chief Executive Joe Lopano.
“I shouldn’t be reading about it in the papers,” Crist said. “I am on the aviation authority board and I am an elected official. It is our responsibility to visit with people, to listen to them.”
Crist said he wants to make sure employees and others with useful information and ideas have a way to communicate with airport officials. He said employees might be reluctant to go through normal procedures such as making comments during the public participation segment of monthly board meetings.
“Some people may fear for their jobs if they step out of rank,” Crist said. “If they go to the top, there may be people in between who won’t be happy with them. Some don’t have time from work (and other responsibilities) to attend board meetings. Some face outright intimidation.”
He said one new avenue to make sure employees’ voices are heard could be a committee of board members to meet with employees.
Three other members of the five-person aviation authority board that runs the airport could not be reached for comment Thursday. Aviation authority board member Martin Garcia directed questions to Lopano.
Airport spokeswoman Janet Zink said airport staff would meet with “airline partners” to discuss security issues raised in the Tribune’s story.
“(Checking) badges to have access to the shuttle buses would go a long way if we made sure only those with clearance could ride,” Zink said. “At this point there’s no decision on (extending) the fence.”