A disgraced former priest who was defrocked in 2002 over allegations of molestation in his New Jersey diocese has found a new job that is raising eyebrows: three months after he lost his clerical post he was given a job as a TSA officer.
According to the Daily Mail, Thomas Harkins's duties include doing pat downs on children, which reports say proves the agency failed to do a thorough background check when it offered him a position at Philadelphia International Airport.
The 65-year-old was accused of sexually abusing two grade-school girls, which is information that was apparently not shared in the wake of the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks. The urgent need for agents at the time meant that staff were being hired without being put under sufficient scrutiny, a TSA agent told the Mail.
50,000 new security workers were employed at the same time as Harkins, a TSA official told philly.com, many of whom were hired without checks.
Hawkins was reportedly hired the following year, just months after molestation allegations saw him ousted from the church. Once employed by the TSA he proved so skilled at his job that he quickly secured a promotion.
Although never prosecuted, his civil lawsuits were settled for $195,000 and Harkins was thereafter barred from presenting himself as a priest. He was also reportedly banned from attending church services.
A third young girl, who was aged 11 at the time in question, has since filed a lawsuit claiming that she was also one of Harkins' victims. Harkins allegedly abused her 10-15 times in 1980 and 1981, including in his bedroom in the rectory.
Hearing of Harkins' new posting, the church wrote to the TSA in 2003, informing officials of the allegations made against him, but still he remained on the staff payroll.
The TSA took no actions because 'an allegation alone does not warrant dismissal or automatically disqualify applicants from employment with the TSA,' spokesperson Ann Davis told the press.
Harkins' current role at the airport reportedly involves overseeing screening operations for checked luggage and earns him a salary of $75,600 a year.
Harkins is one of 4,300 priests accused of molestation across the United States, according to bishop-accountability.org, an organization that tracks clergy abuse.
'They should know who they’re hiring,' Karen Polesir a Philadelphia spokeswoman with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) told the press. 'As the public, we are screened to our underwear getting on a plane, and yet they hire a man like that.'