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County to Rule on Airport Expenditure

County supervisors should not dip into the county’s operating budget to repay the $36,483 spent on a defunct plan to hand the Oxnard and Camarillo airports over to private managers, according to airports director Rodney L. Murphy.

In a recommendation scheduled to go before county supervisors on Tuesday, Murphy said he and two top county officials--Supervisor John K. Flynn and County Administrator Lin Koester--were justified in using the airport administration budget to hire a consultant and pay for a cross-country fact-finding tour of private airports.

The probe gave the county valuable insight into ways to better manage its airports, and therefore was a justifiable use of the so-called airport enterprise fund, Murphy has concluded.

The recommendation comes to the Board of Supervisors after both the Camarillo and Oxnard airport authority boards--composed of two county supervisors, two city council representatives and two members of the public--voted on the repayment question last month.

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On a 3-2 vote, the Oxnard board called for county supervisors to repay the airports out of the county general fund budget, contending that the privatization plan would have benefited the county at the expense of the airports.

With one member absent, the Camarillo board deadlocked in a 2-2 vote.

Flynn, Koester and Murphy paid a consultant $33,900 to investigate a Federal Aviation Administration pilot program that would have allowed the county to sell or lease the two airports to a private firm and use some of the proceeds to fund other county programs.

Flynn, Koester and Murphy later spent an additional $2,583 on a three-day trip to visit four privately run airports in New York and New Jersey.

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Airport authority members who favored the county general fund picking up the tab contended that the sole purpose of the privatization plan was to fatten the county general fund, said Camarillo City Councilman Bill Liebmann, a member of the Camarillo Airport Authority.

The airport budget, the argument went, should therefore not be used to finance something that could have seen financial support for the airports siphoned to support other county programs.

County supervisors ultimately agreed to abandon plans to apply to the FAA program amid an outcry from citizens angry that they had been left out of the decision-making process.


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