Fiscal watchdogs vie for position on airport board
Two accounting professionals told Mesa County commissioners that they wanted to fill the last spot on the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority Board with both saying they hoped to lend their financial expertise while restoring the authority’s image.
“The image of the board needs to be stellar,” Rick Langley, a Grand Junction CPA, told the commissioners on Thursday morning. “The community needs and wants that.”
Another CPA, Drew Armstrong of Palisade, told the commissioners that afternoon, “I’d like to see some spit and polish, some shine on the board.”
Their comments came on the heels of the assessment of the third candidate for the post, Rick Taggart, who told the commissioners on Wednesday the airport board’s image “is not as good as I think you folks would like it to be.”
It’s important to remember, Armstrong told the commissioners, that the current airport board is a new one that shouldn’t be judged by the previous board.
The board’s image was tarnished after the FBI raided the authority’s offices in November, investigating what were said to be allegations of fraud in connection with the construction of what was called a terminal building at the airport.
Since the raid, the board suspended, then fired Rex Tippetts, the director of aviation, and took a series of other actions. The terminal building was redubbed an administration and firefighting building and several of the rooms within were designated in ways that more accurately described their purpose. Doing so meant that the amount of federal money available for the building would be reduced and the board also relinquished money from the Federal Aviation Administration for that purpose.
No money from federal funding sources has been drawn for the project. All the work on the building has been paid with authority funds.
Tippetts played the major role in drafting plans for the building, according to board members and staff.
The airport board is working through its relationship with the Federal Aviation Administration while the FBI investigation is continuing. It also is dealing with a lawsuit filed by the former director of security at the airport. No arrests have been made and the case remains under seal.
The board must deal with those issues, Langley said, adding, “I think it’s very important to look forward,” as well.
Langley has served as chief financial officer of several companies, including one that dealt with Department of Defense contracts. He also was a star prosecution witness in the federal case against Grand Junction Ponzi schemer Philip Rand Lochmiller.
A frequent user of the airport, Langley said the airport provides a good service that “can be a bit pricey,” and noted that when low-price Allegiant Airlines flies from Grand Junction to Las Vegas, Nev., or Los Angeles, passenger numbers rise.
Armstrong, also a private pilot, noted that among the group, “Grand Junction just doesn’t have a good reputation.”
Some service businesses left the airport when security fencing made it difficult to deal with customers and Armstrong said he would like to see mechanical and avionics businesses return at the airport.
“I’d like to get rid of the fence and put a welcoming foot forward,” Armstrong said.
The commission is to make an appointment on Monday, making it possible for a full airport board to tackle a variety of issues on Feb. 18.