Hopkins Airport custodial manager now in charge of runways

Hopkins Airport custodial manager now in charge of runways

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Cleveland 19 News has discovered the man who was hired to clean Hopkins International Airport is now in charge of the runways with no airport experience on his resume.

His name is Eric Turner and his title is deputy commissioner at Hopkins. Turner was hired in 2013 as the airport's maintenance manager in charge of custodial services. Back when he was hired, Turner beat five others for the job at a salary of $70,000.

In February 2015, Turner was appointed the acting deputy commissioner at Hopkins, which put him in charge of runways with a salary bump of $20,000.

A month later, we exposed runways weren't being staffed correctly by FAA guidelines during winter storms. After our investigation, the city of Cleveland, which owns Hopkins, was fined $735,000 by the FAA. They revealed what we had already exposed: Hopkins understaffed runways 19 times over the past winter.

Last month, Hopkins responded, telling the FAA there's no specific level of staffing that will guarantee a safe airport.

"So you did not meet those regulations 19 times?" asked reporter Scott Taylor.

"Again, what we didn't meet fully 100 percent staffing, even if we missed by one, I don't consider that to be a serious violation," responded interim airport director Fred Szabo.

"The FAA does and they are the experts," said Taylor.

"We will discuss that with the FAA," replied Szabo.

During an interview last month, Szabo couldn't say if Turner had a college degree.

We did some digging and discovered Turner doesn't have one. We verified with Kent State University that he only spent two years on campus.

However, Turner was honest on his city application, listing just two years as a business major at Kent State.

We checked with the city, who showed us a document that verified Turner's education, but the city checked "Yes" that Turner had a diploma and degree.

Turner's resume? It includes two years as a manager at Office Depot, as well as an operations manager overseeing 23 e-check facilities, and district manager at OfficeMax.

There is no work experience at any airport.

Turner was appointed to his current position by former airport director Ricky Smith, who left Hopkins months before the FAA handed down its huge fine.

We did some checking at regional airports to see how Turner compares. At Akron-Canton Airport, a similar position has a man with 28 years of runway experience. At Pittsburgh International Airport, their person has 15 years experience working at the airport. At Detroit Metropolitan Airport, it's 27 years of airport experience. At Port Columbus International Airport, the man hired in June has more than 20 years experience working at airports.

How is Turner doing at the Hopkins Airport? We can't find any performance evaluation in his employee file.

Cleveland 19 is sending a copy of this story to the FAA. We asked again this week to speak on camera with Eric Turner and Fred Szabo, but were denied access to them.

Next week, Hopkins officials will fly to Chicago to meet with the FAA to ask them to reduce the $735,000 fine.

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