Curses! Foiled again!


Front page story (jump page here) in the Whirled yesterday reports on the ongoing investigation into the Tulsa Airport Authority and their involvement in the Great Plains Airlines deal.

Federal investigators are accusing Tulsa airport officials of inflating the cost of a runway project by about $10 million and linking it to a land purchase they could not justify.

The investigators suspect the money was going to be used to clear up a problem bank loan on the land, and that could have allowed officials to camouflage a potentially illegal subsidy of about $7 million to now-bankrupt Great Plains Airlines.

Documents obtained through an open records request show that investigators concluded the airport may not even need the land for the runway extension.

It apparently was connected to that project only after Great Plains' financial health deteriorated.

That plan was foiled by information officials supplied to the investigators as part of a yearlong probe into airport operations.

The story mentions that Federal investigators are focused on a memo written by airport trust counsel Richard Studenny, outlining how to circumvent laws against direct subsidies by airports to airlines, by concocting a land deal and keeping it small enough to evade Federal scrutiny. Now it appears that the airport authority inflated the cost of a runway expansion project in order to justify a passenger fee increase to the FAA -- the extra money would have been diverted to cover the default of Great Plains.

Let me spell it out for you: Our airport authority wanted to tax Tulsans and people visiting Tulsa -- anyone flying through our airport -- to compensate for the money lost in the Great Plains scheme. While many of those responsible have moved on, we need a clean sweep of the airport management. An "ethics training class" is not sufficient to make an ethical person out of someone looking for ways to deceive and evade the laws. That boils down to character.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on June 7, 2004 7:59 AM.

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