Saturday, March 10, 2012

IBJ Reports Airport CEO John Clark's Extravagant Travel; Why Did City Officials Ignore History of Similiar Behavior in Jacksonville?

This week's Indianapolis Business Journal has a front page article on Indianapolis International Airport CEO John Clark's extravagant travel and the plans for new President of the Airport Authority, Mike Wells, to clamp down on the abuses.
John Clark, CEO Indianapolis
International Airport Authority

The article, which is not available on-line, notes that trip expenses for Clark on other airport executives included:

·  $5,327 to go to Dallas for the Super Bowl, for the purpose of meeting with airline executives

·  $2,599 to go to Phoenix as part of a "boot" camp with Indianapolis leaders to discuss development. The trip included $909 paid in golf fees.

·  $5,563 for a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark for the Passenger Terminal Expo.

·  $10,080 for a trip to Zurich, Switzerland to discuss with Comlux Aviation executives expansion of the company's Indianapolis facility. Comlux had in fact already announced plans to expand its Indianapolis' operations over two years earlier.

·  $7,781 to travel to Athens Greece to be a speaker at the Airports Council International World Economics Council

·  $8,283 to go to Casablanca, Morocco for the Airports Council International World Board Conference. The flight and hotel, the Palmeraie Golf Palace, cost $8,020.

·  $10,008 to go to to Brazil for the Airports Council International-Airport Management Professionals Accreditation Programme meeting.  The article points out that money spent on airport executives' air travel does not come from tax dollars, but rather comes from airlines, in the form of landing fees and space rentals. Cue my eyes rolling. Airlines get the money to pay those fees from air passengers. It might be indirect, but it still comes from the pockets of passengers, i.e. taxpayers.

 Of course, Indianapolis officials had no way of knowing that Clark would engage in outrageous, extravagant travel. After all, no such problems came up while Clark was head of the Jacksonville Airport.

That was said with sarcasm. When Clark's name was being circulated for the Indianapolis Airport job, there were numerous stories in the Indianapolis media about Clark's extravagant travel in Jacksonville and, his arrogant refusal to provide public records requested by a Jacksonville city councilor. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and Randall Tobias, then airport authority president, never denied on the allegations as reported by Folio Weekly, a Jacksonville alternative newspaper, were true. His response at the time was quoted by the Indianapolis Star: "People try sometimes to make things into a big deal," Tobias said. "We're just trying to hire a CEO here."  

Ballard and Tobias simply did not care that Clark had in Jacksonville misused the public's money and tried to keep secret what he had done. Clark was run out of Jacksonville by city officials asking questions. So Clark went to a place where city officials would let him do what he wanted without question - Indianapolis. Were it not for the work of IBJ, Clark's conduct probably would have flow below the radar here in Indianapolis.

It should also be noted that Democratic Councilor Angela Mansfield stepped forward and was willing to criticize Clark saying she is not comfortable with this level of spending on travel by municipal employees.  In the article, she is quoted as saying that Clark "has brought a culture to Indianapolis that wasn't here before.  There's no accountability regarding his expenditures."

I'm not sure I agree with the last part of Councilor Mansfield's observations. For some time, Indianapolis has been a wide open town where public corruption can breed, a place where elected officials won't ask tough questions when it comes to the misuse of the public's money.  I am thankful that we have councilors like Mansfield, Republican Christine Scales and Democrat Zach Adamson who are starting to ask tough questions about how the public's money is being spent.  It's a shame that an airport employee who loads luggage on a conveyor belt received more scrutiny when hired than the Airport's CEO John Clark.

 See also:
Ogden on Politics: Randall Tobias: John Clark's Abuse of the Public's Trust in Jacksonville is No Big Deal (3/19/2009)

Envision Indy: John Clark Speaks (3/19/2009)

Folio Weekly:  Has John Clark Gone Rogue (11/25/2008)  Article can be accessed by hitting the link on this page listing the archived stories.

1 comment:

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