Tippetts’ expenses under scrutiny

As tensions mounted over the Grand Junction Regional Airport fence issue, some general aviation tenants targeted airport Director Rex Tippetts for firing and launched inquiries into his expenses and activities.

They asked: Why did he travel? What did he do on these trips? Was it all business, or was some of it personal? Was it that important for Tippetts to get in front of federal agencies that already are tasked with funding airports? Wouldn’t airline officials, regardless of Tippetts’ wooing, choose flights from Grand Junction if it benefited their bottom line?

A three-year snapshot of expenses charged to the Airport Authority shows a trend of mostly air travel to conferences, fuel expenses for trips to Denver, cellphone charges, some pricey meals at restaurants and one-on-one lunches between Tippetts and board members once a year each year. Expenses also included leather cases for iPhones, phone chargers, an Otterbox for an iPad and a Blackberry, home-exercise equipment, rental car receipts and bottles of locally made wine given to a regional planner at American Airlines and a market analyst at United Airlines.

Other expenses on receipts that were marked as “employee recognition” included:

■ A kayak rental in LaJolla, Calif.

■ A stay at a Disney-themed golf course resort in Florida.

■ A ticket to a Cleveland Browns home football game.

■ Plaques given to employees.

■ Christmas and birthday party favors.

■ And thousands of dollars in gift cards as Christmas presents.

Other charges appear to be for items for regular business, postage, paper and tools.

In general the monthly expenses charged to the Airport Authority’s credit card range from $2,000 to $6,000 a month.

Tippetts said he’s not the only person who uses the Airport Authority’s credit card, and other employees may use it.

Board members said a board chairman approves expenses each month, and the airport budgets $2,200 a year for employee-recognition expenses.

They also contend the inquiries into Tippetts’ spending habits amount to a witch hunt that is detracting from business and keeping board members from progressing on goals, such as building an administrative building, which is behind schedule.

Questions that were returned with written answers and some expense reports are posted on this paper’s website, GJSentinel.com.

Tippetts said he encouraged the Airport Authority members to meet with The Sentinel.

“We don’t have anything to hide,” he said.

Tippetts said he usually stays in Marriott hotels because they offer a discounted government rate. One-night stays ranged from $149 to $399, depending on the city, according to the reports. He said he recently switched hotels to save money because the first hotel did not offer a discounted rate.

Tippetts said he travels for work, but it’s difficult because demands of the job pile up back at the office.

“When you travel, your workload does not change,” he said. “It compiles.”


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