Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Board: End of probe will allow Grand Junction Regional Airport (KGJT) to move forward

The end of a criminal investigation into activities at Grand Junction Regional Airport gives airport officials greater leeway, board members said at their monthly meeting Tuesday.

“Now that we are out from under DOJ’s watchful eye, we are going to become more aggressive,” airport authority Chairman Rick Wagner said during the first board meeting since prosecutors abandoned the criminal case.

A federal civil investigation is still continuing into airport activities, Wagner said, adding that he couldn’t discuss it further.

Nearly every action that the board has taken in the last 21 months has been colored by the investigation, causing the authority to take, or refrain from, certain actions, Wagner said.

Once the airport receives documents seized in the criminal investigation, it can act on several matters on which it has been paralyzed, Wagner said.

One of those is the dispute with Shaw Construction over payment for work done so far at the unfinished building at the airport.

The airport will be able to “deal more directly and completely” with Shaw once it has its records back, Wagner said.

Among the things the authority can more freely discuss is the fence that borders much of the airport, which was a flashpoint in disputes between airport tenants and management under Rex Tippetts, who was fired after the FBI raided airport offices in November 2013.

The Federal Aviation Administration has told the airport it wants $500,000 it contributed toward construction of the fence returned, Wagner said.

At the same time, the airport is continuing discussions with the Transportation Security Administration about the fence and changes the airport wants to make to its perimeter-security system.

The FAA now contends that the fence is noncompliant, but the TSA won’t allow it to be removed, Wagner said. “The irony, if it is irony, is not lost on us,” Wagner said.

Officials remain hopeful they can win TSA support for a new security system, said Steve Wood, who heads the airport’s security solutions committee.

The board also discussed an audit committee’s finding that the airport has been carrying on its books a 2011 GMC Denali pickup that was sold to Tippetts in 2012, before the federal investigation began.

Documentation of the sale was taken in the FBI raid, said authority member Rick Langley, so officials don’t know the amount Tippetts paid for the truck, when it was sold, where it is now, or other details.

Had the criminal investigation not been dropped, the board would not have discussed in public the finding about the truck, Wagner said. 


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