ORLANDO, FLA. (FOX 46 WJZY) - A top TSA official settled a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by a subordinate in 2015 and was promoted a month later, a FOX 46 investigation uncovered.
“He said he 'has eight inches of c--- waiting on you any time you want it,'” said Sonya Labosco, a former air marshal supervisor.
For the first time, this former cop turned air marshal supervisor is speaking out publicly. She is accusing her former boss, now a top TSA official, of sexual harassment, physical assault and retaliation.
“He held his hands over his erection in his pants,” she said, describing an incident at a party on May 9, 2009. “I was in shock.”
Labosco says her then boss, Charles “Chas” Cook, suggested he could advance her career if she gave into his sexual advances.
“Chas put his hand behind my neck and tried to kiss me on the mouth. So, he pulled my head to his head inside the kitchen and tried to kiss me,” she said, after he called her into the kitchen to talk. “I pulled back very strongly.”
“He was the one that would help me move up the ladder," she said Cook told her. "That he and I could be a 'power couple.' He made those specific words that we could be a ‘power couple.’...I felt very sad that my supervisor looked at me as that type of object.”
When he didn’t get what he wanted, she alleges Cook demoted her. She claims retaliation.
Labosco’s now husband, who was an air marshal at the time, says he witnessed the incident.
“What I saw is Chas Cook grab Sonya by the back of the head,” said Anthony Labosco. “And then motion to his genital area with his other hand.”
The following year, Labosco says Cook physically assaulted her because she did not leave a meeting fast enough.
“He grabbed my arm, twisted it really hard, left fingerprints on my arm and tried to pull me out of the room,” she recalled. “He told me to get the f--- out of the room. I better get the f--- out now.”
The TSA says it “thoroughly investigated” her complaints and found them “unsupported.” However, FOX 46 found a current air marshal, who we are not identifying because of their position, who witnessed Cook grab Labosco’s arm. The air marshal says they were never interviewed by anyone at the TSA.
TSA thoroughly investigated the allegations of physical misconduct occurring during an unofficial social gathering when the allegations were brought to its attention, and the claims were determined to be unsupported. In 2014, the matter was litigated in Federal court, where the allegations were resolved by mutual agreement among all parties without any finding of fault or liability….This matter was resolved and concluded in 2014 following a full investigation and Federal court settlement. - statement from TSA
“He grabbed her arm and he shook her. She was extremely caught off guard,” the air marshal said. “She grabbed the arm afterward. It did appear to hurt her.”
Labosco filed a federal lawsuit and made a complaint with the government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Cook denied the allegations but the EEOC concluded in its report: “the record established that, at a minimum, [Cook] placed his hands upon [Labosco] and grabbed her arm.”
The TSA sent Cook a “Letter of Reprimand” for cursing. The TSA called his behavior “unacceptable” and said the allegations of sexual harassment were of “such concern” he could be fired if it happened again. Then they offered him "confidential counseling."
A month after taxpayer dollars were used to settle Labosco’s lawsuit in 2015, reportedly for a six figure amount, Cook was promoted. The TSA refused to let us talk with him. Cook's LinkedIn profile lists his title as Deputy Assistant Director at the Federal Air Marshal Service.
His official title is "branch manager" over "Flight Programs," according to an organizational chart provided to FOX 46.
“That’s like putting the fox over the hen house,” said Labosco.
Given the #MeToo movement, FOX 46 asked if TSA would want to talk to the witness who was never interviewed, or re-interview Labosco. The TSA responded that “this matter was resolved” and the case settled without a finding of fault.
“TSA stands by its employees,” said TSA spokesman Thomas Kelly.
Rep. Darren Soto (D-Florida) stands by Labosco.
“I believe her,” the Congressman said, calling her allegations “outrageous.”
“There should be some reprimand rather than continued promotions,” said Soto. “Obviously, we’ll be looking into it along with our colleagues...Especially in an area, like TSA, when you’re talking about top security clearances and the public safety...it just becomes more egregious when you add promotions. It seems like that’s rewarding, or at least not punishing people, for behavior that’s wholly inappropriate.”
Correction: FOX 46 originally reported that Mr. Cook was the "number three" official overseeing the Federal Air Marshal Service, which is incorrect. Mr. Cook's LinkedIn profile says he is the "Deputy Assistant Director" of the FAMS. An organizational chart provided to FOX 46 lists his title as "branch manager" over "Flight Programs."