Leaked Audio Shows Cleveland Hopkins Airport Paranoia; Whistleblowers Threatened with Retaliation

[image-1]In what's becoming a common refrain around the U.S., newly leaked audio from a meeting called by Cleveland Hopkins International Airport airfield-maintenance manager Robert Henderson showcases a demonstrable paranoia among airport officials. Whistleblowers — and, essentially, anyone who speaks to "the media" — have been threatened with retaliation by Henderson. The audio recording took place Jan. 19.

Just like he did in 2015, former airfield manager Abdul Malik-Al has insisted that the airport's snow removal crews are poorly supported and not sufficiently prepared to provide safe runway conditions in the event of a north shore snow storm. According to Ali's attorney: "On January 10th, they failed to put down the liquid deicing chemical even though they had plenty of warning from the weather service that freezing rain was coming. As a result, flights were diverted, couldn't land at Hopkins and flights were canceled, and again the traveling public is in jeopardy."

Ali's 2015 comments resulted in the Federal Aviation Administration levying a $200,000 fine on the airport for neglecting an array of safety duties. The FAA tends to take these things very seriously, though it's unclear for now how the administration will respond.

What is clear is that Henderson is pissed off. His maintenance operations appear to the public like a disaster, and Ali's complaints have shed light on what sort of concerning situations are being ignored over there. On Jan. 19, he rounded up the staff and made very clear that communications with journalists will not be tolerated. Listen to the audio here. Read a transcript of Henderson's comments here.

A relevant excerpt:

If anybody is caught associating with anything like that, the penalties will be great. So I’m calling y’all together now. Let’s go ahead and put it out there; let’s talk about it right now. So we can get it out of the way. Because if anyone is caught sitting there having a sideline conversations about this, or with [unintelligible] did to somebody else, or let me send it to this friend or let me me do that, that could connect you with something that’s, that’s frowned upon in the organization—to take internal stuff and leak it out to the media. So please don’t engage in, in all that. I’m putting it out right here, right now. It ain’t nothing to whisper about. 

The thematic links to what's happening in Washington and in many parts of the world are remarkable.

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About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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