Saturday, September 16, 2017

Milwaukee County auditors did not seek criminal charges in General Mitchell International Airport (KMKE) investigation

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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