Thirteen of 34 air traffic controllers suspended from a Palmdale air route control center during a drug probe have been offered drug rehabilitation, officials announced today.
"If they choose to enter rehabilitation, they will be given leaves to do so," said Barbara Abels, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration's western region.
During that time the controllers would remain on the FAA payroll.
The 21 other controllers have returned to duty at the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center at Palmdale, Abels said.
The probe was prompted by allegations of use of illegal drugs at parties attended by controllers who work at the FAA center in the desert north of Los Angeles.
The center monitors traffic from Bakersfield to the Mexican border and in Nevada and Utah.
15 Days to Respond
The 13 controllers offered drug rehabilitation have 15 days to respond from the date each was notified, Abels said. The first three were notified Aug. 30.
It would be inaccurate to conclude that all 13 tested positive for drugs, Abels said.
"The investigation included both medical tests and a security investigation," she said.
Any of the 13 who refuse the offer face removal from federal service, she said. Each would then have 20 days to appeal to an outside agency, the Merits System Protection Board, and have their case heard.
"If they do come back after rehabilitation, they will be closely monitored," Abels said.
The spokeswoman said that staffing at the center "is not a problem" and that the suspensions have "very minimal effect."