Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ismael Bonilla fired as General Mitchell International Airport (KMKE) director: Milwaukee County investigates allegations of misconduct

Document: Read the Audit Division report of its investigation

Related: Misconduct allegations raised as Mitchell International Airport director fired

General Mitchell International Airport Director Ismael Bonilla has been released from his duties effective immediately.

Bonilla, who was on the job almost two years, will be replaced by Department of Transportation Director Brian Dranzik.

Dranzik will serve as acting director of the airport while Milwaukee County searches for a permanent replacement.

According to a county official, in late August, the county executive’s office was informed that the county’s independent Audit Services Division had conducted an investigation into allegations of misconduct by Bonilla. That investigation began in late November of 2016.

The Audit Services Division has submitted its findings to the Milwaukee County Board of Ethics for their review and appropriate action into the alleged violation of the Milwaukee County Code of Ethics, specifically, that Bonilla used privileged information in a way which may have financially benefited former co-workers, the official said.

According to the Audit Services Division report on the investigation, the airport awarded a $250,000 contract to Springfield, Illinois-based engineering and planning firm Hanson Professional Services Inc., to create a business plan for Lawrence J. Timmerman Airport. The Audit Services Division learned that Bonilla and airport deputy director Yul McNair had prior working relationships with Hanson personnel and a Hanson sub-contractor, according to the report. Bonilla has a current quasi-business relationship with Hanson personnel, outside of the Timmerman business plan contract, the report states.

Bonilla and McNair arranged for Hanson personnel to take a site visit of Timmerman prior to the release of the request for proposal for the business plan contract, the ASD report states. When the RFP was issued it did not include explicit notice that site visits were possible and the ASD report states that the division found no evidence that the three other companies that submitted a response to the RFP requested or conducted a site visit.

“ASD has determined that Bonilla and McNair, by arranging a site visit for a company prior to the publication of a RFP which did not include an option for a site visit, violated Milwaukee County General Ordinance…prohibition against disclose of privileged information,” the ASD report states.

“For six years, it has been my unambiguous expectation that county employees operate with the highest ethical standards at all times – the taxpayers deserve no less,”  Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele said in a written statement. “The mere suggestion that the integrity of the procurement process was in question anywhere in county government would be a serious cause for concern. In order to ensure confidence in the airport’s operations, I have made the decision to bring in new management. We will also implement comprehensive, formal re-training on procurement procedures at the airport.”

However, while Bonilla has been fired, McNair is still employed by the county, according to Melissa Baldauff, director of communications for  Abele.

In addition, the ASD report says the division cannot make a determination if Bonilla or McNair violated the county ordinance pertaining conflicts of interest and required disclosures for professional service procurements.

“While Bonilla’s and McNair’s actions may not be in the ‘spirit’ of the county’s rules regarding conflicts of interest, they appear to be within the letter of the law due to both a strict definition of relevant terms and the lack of procedural detail for a professional services contract RFP,” the ASD report states.

Bonilla was named to the airport director role by Abele in December 2015 and assumed the position on Feb. 1, 2016.

He previously served as chief business development officer for Hi-Lite Airfield Services LLC in Jacksonville, Florida. Hi-Lite is an airport runway and taxiway marking contractor.

Bonilla also held positions in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Jacksonville and Santiago, Chile. He is also a 20-year Air Force veteran.

Before Bonilla arrived, Dranzik oversaw day-to-day airport operations for eight months. Dranzik took over after Terry Slaybaugh resigned just months after taking the job.

Original article can be found here ➤

Milwaukee County auditors did not refer the findings of their investigation into alleged misconduct by former Mitchell International Airport Director Ismael "Izzy" Bonilla to the district attorney's office for review of possible criminal charges, Audit Services Director Jerry Heer confirmed Friday.

County Executive Chris Abele fired Bonilla Thursday after reviewing auditors' findings that he had violated a county ordinance prohibiting disclosure of privileged information when he helped a contractor gain a "competitive advantage" in winning a contract.

Auditors determined Bonilla used privileged information to financially benefit former co-workers. But there is no indication in the report that Bonilla personally benefited from his actions.

The audit division's investigative report was submitted to the Ethics Board for action on a possible violation of the county ethics code.

The Ethics Board will meet Nov. 14 and has not scheduled a special meeting before that for any purpose, Executive Director Stephanie Hunnicutt said. Once the board reviews the audit division report, it cannot impose any discipline on Bonilla since he is no longer an employee of the county, Hunnicutt said.

The Ethics Board, however, could refer the auditors' findings of ethical misconduct to the district attorney's office, she said.

Document: Read the Audit Division report of its investigation

Related: Misconduct allegations raised as Mitchell International Airport director fired

Bonilla arranged for the contractor, Hanson Professional Services Inc., to visit Timmerman airport in August 2016 regarding a proposed business plan for the airport, according to the audit report.

The site visit was held in advance of the county publishing a request for proposals for the plan in September of that year. After the request was sent out and the project was made public, Bonilla did not offer similar visits to competing companies.

In November 2016, the county awarded the $250,000 contract to develop a Timmerman business plan to Hanson.

Auditors also confirmed that Bonilla had a prior working relationship with Hanson employees and a Hanson subcontractor.

The Audit Services Division in the Comptroller's Office began receiving complaints of misconduct by Bonilla in August 2016, six months after he started work at Mitchell.

Those complaints alleged abuse of a county purchase card, personal use of a county vehicle, and hiring his best friend, Yul McNair, as deputy director of Mitchell airport.

McNair, too, had a prior working relationship with Hanson employees and McNair participated in the Timmerman site visit, according to the report.

Timmerman is also owned and operated by Milwaukee County.

McNair remains employed at Mitchell airport.

Bonilla's salary was $175,000 a year.

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