Monday, February 17, 2014

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport: CVG board changes alcohol, travel policies for members

The board that oversees Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is overhauling its travel, food and alcohol policy, but stricter rules will not change the state auditor’s ongoing special investigation into board members’ spending.

CVG will no longer pay for alcohol or first-class domestic flights for Kenton County Airport Board members to travel on official airport business, board Chairman Jim Huff said Monday.

Huff’s decision comes amid an investigation by Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen into the board spending airport money on travel, food and alcohol, first reported by The Enquirer.

Huff’s decision will not change the nature of the state’s investigation, but “any improvements that are made to strengthen their policies are welcome,” said Stephenie Hoelscher, Edelen’s spokeswoman.

Other policy changes Huff and the board’s executive committee approved Monday:

• The board will no longer serve food or alcohol after every monthly board meeting.

• The number of board members who can attend an airline-industry conference has been reduced from 18 to 11 per conference.

• Board members will only be permitted to fly coach on any flights in the U.S. on airport-related business. The airport can pay for a first-class ticket on an international flight longer than four hours. Board members are permitted to upgrade to first class on all flights as long as they pay for it on their own.

With new policies in place, Huff told board members, “at least (spending) can’t get out of hand.”

Asked if the decision was in response to the state’s audit, Huff said: “There’s pressure on every airport to run these things more efficiently. The changes we’ve made will help us do that.”

As first reported by The Enquirer, the board spent more than $260,000 on travel expenses and food for airport conferences and dinners after board meetings in the last five years. Huff is among the board members who have come into question for spending on travel.

Most other public boards in the region typically do not serve alcohol after regular meetings, although some serve a meal and snacks.

The spending prompted Edelen’s office to launch its investigation. Auditors have been reviewing documents electronically the past few months, and last week they began on-site work at CVG.

Auditors will be spending two to three days a week at CVG the rest of this month. Hoelscher said the audit is expected to be completed by spring.

“We’re cooperating with them fully,” Huff said.


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