Potential changes possible at airport following Fox59 investigation

Budgets and BudgetingTravelPoliticsLocal GovernmentSafety of CitizensJohn ClarkMike Wells

Multiple sources indicate a shakeup could soon be underway at Indianapolis International Airport as Executive Director John Clark’s travel expenses have captured the attention of the airport’s new top leadership.

Last fall, Fox 59 News revealed that Clark and two top aides spent in excess of $67,000 in international travel and internal team building expenses.

“Does it bother me that I get the criticism?” Clark asked when confronted about his travel expenses. “Yes, it bothers me. but I have to take responsibility for that and that’s because I would say for the most part, people don’t understand what happens in the airport business.”

Clark said a lot of the travel costs were run up in pursuit of international business and in an attempt to raise IAA’s global profile. However, it’s the perceived lack of business progress that has Mayor Greg Ballard worried.

“What I’m mostly concerned about out there is the economic development aspect of the airport,” said Mayor Ballard. “I think that’s been slow…much slower than I would have expected. I may have been the recession. It may have been all the economic downturn but I want to have more plans for development out there. That’s what I’m mostly focused on.”

Last December Ballard brought in Mike Wells of REI Real Estate to take over as president of the Airport Authority Board, a post he’s held in the past.

Tuesday morning, the board met in executive session to discuss, among other issues, “job performance of individual employees.” A source indicates that Clark realizes his job is on the line.

“We’ll have to eventually see what the airport authority board does,” said the mayor, “just like everything in the administration, you look at everything going forward.”

When asked if he would like to see a change in the management of the airport, Ballard said, “We’re not ready to announce anything out there right now.”

Ballard told Fox 59 News he expects to announce later this week changes in his administration. Sources indicate that Public Works Director David Sherman may be ready to step down. At least one more top administrator may be ready to leave the city.

Despite the $420 million sale of the Indianapolis Water Company and $20 million in revenue from the lease of the city’s parking meter system, Mayor Ballard faces a $50-75 million budget deficit next year. The City-County Council’s Public Safety Committee has scheduled a Wednesday afternoon meeting to ask Public Safety Director Frank Straub and Marion County Sheriff John Layton their plans to cut up to $15 million from the public safety budget. Sources indicate Straub has called for a 5 percent cut in the IMPD budget.

Even though Clark’s airport operations budget and expenses are financed by airline fees and taxes on travelers, Republican Councilwoman Christine Scales said greater spending accountability is needed throughout the city budget.

“It’s our duty and responsibility to find out where has that money gone?” said Scales. “Where has it been spent and how?”

Ballard said he was clear during the water company sale and the parking meter lease deal that the bulk of those funds would be spent on solving long overdue infrastructure needs and not on city operating costs.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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Budgets and BudgetingTravelPoliticsLocal GovernmentSafety of CitizensJohn ClarkMike Wells