TSA Chicago boss resigns after debacle at Midway, O'Hare

An ABC7 I-Team Exclusive

ByChuck Goudie and Ross Weidner and Barb Markoff WLS logo
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Kathleen Petrowsky

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Six weeks after Chicago's airports became a national example of Transportation Security Administration ineptness with traveler waits of two hours or more, TSA's top official here has resigned, the I-Team has learned.

Kathleen Petrowsky sent an email to Chicago staffers on Sunday informing them of her imminent departure. Ms. Petrowsky has been with TSA since its inception and the head of O'Hare and Midway security operations since 2007.

"This is to let you know that I have decided to retire on June 30, after 37 years of Federal [sic] government service" Petrowsky wrote in her email, a copy of which was obtained by the I-Team and verified with federal sources.

"I have been proud to serve as your colleague since TSA was formed, and since 2007 as your FSD (Federal Security Director)," she stated.

Although her resignation does not mention the debacle of passengers waiting in lines that snaked through corridors and into parking lots-then missing flights and sleeping on airport cots, the timing is conspicuous.

Perhaps the writing was on the wall last month when her boss TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger came to Chicago to meet with local officials and express regret for the problem, but she was not present for the public mea culpa.

TSA officials blamed a staffing shortage and higher passenger numbers and then said they would reposition 100 part-time officers to Chicago airports on full-time status. They also brought in a new management team, which didn't bode well for Ms. Petrowsky as well.

Since the initial meltdown in Chicago and some other U.S. airports, TSA has managed to retool passenger screening operations and bring down the lines.

She isn't the only TSA brass tarnished by the missteps and angry passengers. When thousands of travelers were still at the boiling point, TSA replaced its former national head of security, Kelly Hoggan, who according to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform received more than $90,000 in bonuses from 2013 to late 2014.

Prior to being named to the top spot, Petrowsky had been serving as the deputy federal security director for O'Hare since August 2005. She was also the assistant federal security director of operations, overseeing human resources, finance, the 24-hour operations center, and customer service and stakeholder liaison offices. Prior to joining TSA, she was with the Federal Aviation Administration as the federal security manager assigned to O'Hare International Airport.

While with the FAA, she also worked in the fields of security liaison, regulatory enforcement and investigations.