By Tom Rask, from Tampa Bay Guardian
Tampa International Airport (TPA) violated its own hiring procedure in at least two ways when it hired former Bay News 9 news anchor Veronica Cintron for $223,000 per year.
Cintron’s husband is Preston Rudie, founder and CEO of Catalyst Communications Group. The company says it has “strong relationships with officials at the local, state and federal level” in its Government Affairs business segment.
TPA is operated by the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority (HCAA). The HCCA’s “Standard Procedure S631.01” with the title “Hiring Procedures” states that “when a department wishes to fill a vacant position, an email request should be submitted to Human Resources [HR] to initiate a recruitment through Taleo and/or with professional organizations.”
None of those actions were taken: no e-mail was sent to HR to initiate recruitment, and no recruitment through the Taleo job website or with professional organizations was carried out. These facts were confirmed through a public records request to HCAA.
As reported in our initial article about this scandal, the position was also not advertised in any other way not mentioned in the hiring procedure.
The HCAA’s failure to follow their own hiring procedure occurred even though the HCAA itself reviewed and revised their hiring procedure nine months to the day before the date of Cintron’s hiring.
A 2018 State of Florida Auditor General report found that “salary surveys analyzed by the consultant did not contain data exclusive to airport authorities….. and the consultant only obtained salary data from one peer airport.” The report was critical of the methodology for setting executive salaries at the airport, and of the lack of transparency.
A follow-up audit 14 months later in 2020 found that the HCAA “had not corrected” the problem. The report concluded that the HCAA “did not demonstrate why the seven selected entities were comparable or useful for salary analysis purposes.”
The Guardian contacted Cintron to ask her about her hiring. We asked her:
- Do you feel comfortable taking a $223,000 a year job with a public agency that violated its own policy in hiring you?
- Who approached you for the job? Was it by phone or e-mail? What did they tell you?
Cintron did not respond, despite being contacted via text message and e-mail multiple times during a 50 hour period.
The HCAA’s hiring procedure is only 309 words long, or just under half the length of this article. It shouldn’t have been hard to adhere to.
The HCAA’s failure to follow procedure might also prove to be expensive.
“An organization that fails to follow HR policy leaves itself vulnerable to lawsuits by disgruntled employees,” said Judith Cushman, President of Seattle-based recruiting firm Judith Cushman & Associates. Cushman has 40 years experience in the highly specialized field of filling Corporate Communications and related posts nationally. Cintron’s position is in exactly that field.
There is also the possibility that a candidate may suspect there is bias involved in the lack of openness to avoid considering him/her for the job due to race, gender and/or disability,” Cushman said. “All of these consequences can be costly if lawsuits are filed. That is why following established policy is so important.”
That is a very attractive salary and the job must be very important if that is the offer,” Cushman said about the compensation package. “I also expect that there would be several candidates who would be interested in applying if the position was announced both internally and externally, the latter only after any internal candidates had been considered first.”
The Tampa Bay Guardian will continue to investigate this matter. In our initial article about this scandal we said “we already have reason to expect that we will find many more irregularities.”
In this article, we showed one such irregularity. We expect to find many more, so stay tuned.