- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 18, 2001

LINTHICUM, Md. (AP) — Unionized firefighters at Baltimore-Washington International Airport have approved a no-confidence vote against airport administrators, saying politically connected friends of the governor are being given jobs despite their lack of airport emergency experience.
Local 1742 of the International Association of Fire Fighters approved the measure Thursday night, saying administrators have put airport safety at risk by not following emergency procedures on several occasions and by placing unqualified people on emergency equipment.
Accusations of cronyism also were made by the airport's former chief executive after his resignation. David L. Blackshear said Democratic friends of Gov. Parris N. Glendening forced him out after repeated disagreements over airport policy and hiring.
Mr. Blackshear resigned July 23 after two airport marketing employees with ties to the Democratic Party said he made racially and sexually offensive remarks.
Firefighters also made accusations of employee intimidation and unfair hiring practices.
Richard Samluck, president of Local 1742, said he agreed with Mr. Blackshear's charges of favoritism and said public safety is being put at risk. "I think public safety is being compromised by unqualified political appointees being put in emergency service positions," he said.
"For us, this is not a public safety issue, it's a labor relations issue," said Beverley Swaim-Staley, who was appointed acting executive director of BWI after Mr. Blackshear's resignation. "We do take it very seriously, and we will certainly be looking at these issues, but it's about labor relations."
The no-confidence vote specifically mentioned Stephen E. Allen Sr., the airport's associate administrator of public safety and a former Prince George's County fire investigator; Thomas D. Mack, chief of the airport's 77-member fire department and a retired Baltimore County deputy fire chief; and John M. Norris, BWI's deputy fire chief and a former Baltimore County battalion fire chief.
Mr. Samluck said Mr. Mack and Mr. Norris arrived on the scene of a helicopter crash at BWI on Aug. 1 without proper equipment and violated standard safety procedures.
Mr. Allen, meanwhile, violated security procedures when personnel observed what appeared to be an explosive device, Mr. Samluck said. Instead of waiting for trained emergency crews, Mr. Allen opened the bag and examined what turned out to be a novelty hand grenade.
"They're supposed to be administrative, but these guys are going in and getting involved in everything," Mr. Samluck said. "I have a problem with that."
Mr. Mack defended his actions in the Aug. 1 incident, saying he and Mr. Norris had been returning from a meeting when the helicopter accident occurred. Rather than make the long trip back to the fire station to obtain their safety gear, they elected to drive directly to the scene and take command. "Would I like to have had my turnout gear? Yes, but sometimes it doesn't work out that way," Mr. Mack said.
Airport officials said federal regulations do not allow them to comment on security issues. Mr. Allen declined to comment.
Mr. Allen, who hired Mr. Mack and Mr. Norris, took over as fire chief at BWI in late 1997 amid suspicion that the appointment was a reward for work on the governor's campaigns. Mr. Allen replaced Thomas R. McGinnis, who was reassigned to the state Fire Marshal's Office after 30 years at the airport.
"It's just cronyism," Mr. McGinnis, now retired, said Thursday at his home near Chestertown. "I never knew it was a requirement to live in Prince George's County to have a state job."
Mr. Glendening was executive of Prince George's County before being elected governor in 1994.
A spokeswoman for the governor said she was not familiar with the no-confidence vote and referred questions to the state transportation department, which oversees BWI.


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