Airport on right approach
With its action Tuesday evening — suspending Director of Aviation Rex Tippetts and moving ahead with a federal grant application — the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority is on the right track regarding the ongoing fraud investigation by the FBI.
It is critical that the Airport Authority reassure the community, aviation businesses, credit rating agencies and the FAA that it is taking appropriate steps to deal with the fallout from the FBI investigation.
We don’t believe that could be accomplished while Tippetts remained in the operational leadership position at the airport. That is not to say we believe Tippetts is guilty of some criminal act. No charges have been filed against him or anyone else, and even if that occurs, the presumption of innocence remains.
However, as we noted before, so long as Tippetts remained in charge, there would questions regarding his contact with employees, his handling of documents and his ability to operate. Suspending him was the right decision.
So, too, is the effort to wrap up the authority’s investigation as quickly as possible, using independent investigators with expertise in airport and financial matters, to determine whether significant changes are needed.
In the meantime, it would be a mistake for the Airport Authority to hunker down behind metaphorical bunkers and do little to advance the airport’s goals while the investigations are under way. That’s why the authority’s decision to proceed with a federal grant application for continued work on a new runway is a sound one. To refuse to apply for a grant on the assumption that the FAA would reject it based on the ongoing investigations — as Tippetts suggested before he was suspended — would have been neglecting the airport’s needs.
It may have been late in addressing these problems, but the Airport Authority is on the right approach now.