Thursday, January 09, 2014

Opinion: The airport debacle continues - Grand Junction Regional (KGJT), Colorado

Jim Hoffman
Free Press Weekly Opinion Columnist

Is that the sound of another shoe falling at the airport?

The County Commission requested and received the resignation of long-serving Airport Authority board member Denny Granum. While carefully pointing out their request was not indicative of any wrong doing, the commission’s request did present an awkward appearance in its timing.

Mr. Granum served on the board for the majority of the time Rex Tippetts was on board as airport manager. As revelations continue to show, Tippetts was largely unfettered by meaningful oversight by the board and the board by extension (from both County Commission and City Council). Even in the absence of wrong doing, Granum and previous board members must assume a level of responsibility for lack of management oversight that has become the reality of scandal today.

While some cower in fear as to what the County Commission’s overall motivation and intention may be at the airport, one should at least find some degree of comfort in the fact that they are finally acknowledging their obligation and responsibility to oversee the overseers they appoint to the Airport Authority. No, no and NO — that is not a demand for micro-management, but a timid request for some management.

While Grand Junction Mayor Sam Susuras sits on the board, we have not yet seen any indication the city has assumed any greater interest in the Airport Authority or the city’s role in managing such.

Past Commissioners and City Council members turned a blind eye and deaf ear toward the many rumblings of discontent, discord and mismanagement at the airport and allowed Tippetts to continue an autocratic, unsupervised management. It cannot be said the current situation is surprising (except for its scope) as there have long been indications of a problem that the city and county simply refused to investigate.

Tippetts somehow reminds one of a less than aboveboard politician who is tolerated and returned to office because they “bring home the bacon.” Truth be told, all those elected officials who preach reduced taxes and spending love government handouts. Tippetts literally brought millions in federal grants (read our tax dollars, NOT free money) to the airport for his expansion plans including a huge new administrative building to house his offices. Now it appears he may have been a master of deceit inasmuch as he ”re-purposed” square footage within the building for non-existent purposes to qualify the building for federal grant money. The scope of his creative manipulation and how many millions of dollars may have been applied for, received, and expended without a legitimate basis has not yet been revealed.

Those millions may become a liability for which repayment is demanded. Beyond that there remains those pesky allegations contained in that federal lawsuit. Those allegations of board members purchasing airport “surplus” equipment at below market rates, steering airport business to family and friends, and favoring some contractors still need to be resolved. Finally, the airport may not be able to sell bonds to finance future construction and may be refused future grant dollars. The economic damage has yet to be calculated and other reputations are sure to be soiled.

What a way to start the New Year! Just when you thought it was not possible to be more disappointed with a politician than you already were, Steve King pulls a stunt to change your mind.

Right there on the front page of the Daily Sentinel on January 1, 2014, New Year’s Day, is a report on an interview for which King sat. In that interview he reveals to the general public that he and his wife of 20-plus years are divorcing. The sole reason he cites for this event is his service to Mesa County as an elected representative.

While the list of representatives who have served us in Denver without the disintegration of their marriage is long, the list who divorced is rather short. In recent memory that would be Josh Penry and now Steve King. Why King chose this forum and this day to confirm the months-long rumors as to problems within his marriage we fail to comprehend.


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