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No record of discipline for airport executive's security breach

No. 2 man at Jacksonville Airport Authority admitted to sneaking cash around TSA

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A week after the I-TEAM exposed a security breach by the chief operating officer of the Jacksonville Airport Authority, the release of his personnel records raises more questions and the appearance of a cover-up.

Last week, News4Jax reported on an incident that sounds like it could have been a plot out of a movie: Tony Cugno, the No. 2 man at Jacksonville International Airport, admitted to sneaking thousands of dollars in cash around TSA security and handing it to a member of the JAA's board as he was getting on a plane to Las Vegas.

One day after the I-TEAM reported on the federal investigation into the incident, JAA told News4Jax that Cugno was suspended for three days and given remedial training. But 500 pages of documents JAA provided on Friday show no evidence he was ever disciplined.

Reports received from the Inspector General Office in Jacksonville  said Cugno and former board member Ernie Isaac worked out a plan where Cugno would take money belonging to Isaac, use his security badge to bypass TSA security, and meet Isaac on the other side of security and hand him the money just before Isaac boarded a plane to Las Vegas.

The investigation didn't get into the possible reason for avoiding questions about taking the cash through the TSA checkpoint. Iaask told News4Jax that it was several thousand dollars of his own money and that it only happened once. But witnesses told investigators it happened numerous times. Documents show it was frequent enough that Cugno would often say he had to leave to go do the "Ernie thing."

Federal investigators were made aware of the security breach, but decline to prosecute. Last week airport officials said they conducted their own informal examination. The JAA's first statement mentioned no punishment for Cugno, but the next day, the airport authority issued a second statement saying that because of Cugno's improper action, he was put on leave without pay for three days and ordered to undergo retraining on TSA and Jacksonville Aviation Authority security procedures. 

Cugno's personnel file released Friday contains his resume, notes about his hiring, his current pay -- $184,000 per year -- and lots of other documents, but there is no record of any disciplinary action.

This document in his file does show Cugno completed an airport safety and security course about the time he admitted breaking security protocol.

The investigation closed in 2015. The next year, JAA CEO Steve Grossman wrote in a memo that is in Cugno's personnel file that he is an excellent role model for the organization.

The I-TEAM asked why there were no notes about the suspension in the personnel file, but there was no answer by the close of business Friday. News4Jax is also still waiting for reports from the TSA about its investigation of the incident.


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