AIRPORT DIRECTOR BOOTED? SOURCES MUM ON FATE OF HEAD OF TROUBLED AIRPORT!
"Fantasy Park" Ramp never used until
VNS wrote a story about it
NEWS (June 11, 2008) -
- The executive director of the long-troubled Newport News-Williamsburg
International Airport has been replaced with an acting director, without public
announcement or fanfare.
R. Smith, brought in to shore up a flagging little airport in 1992, left his job last
Tuesday, sources told Virginia News Source, and Mark Falin, airport manager, has
been named acting director.
Falin nor Ed Maroney, X-Newport News City Manager and now chairman of the
Peninsula Airport Commission (PAC), the airport's governing body, returned calls
seeking comments on reports that Smith was forced out.
note: Maroney called VNS Thursday morning to respond to queries about
denied that Smith, 63, who as recently as last year said he planned to
remain in the job a couple more years before retiring, was forced out.
described his departure as "being mutually agreeable" between
the PAC and Smith.]
airport is embroiled in numerous legal disputes that could cost it settlements in
the millions of dollars over charges of discrimination, abuse, and unfair
treatment of tenants that are working their way through the Newport News Circuit
additional actions against the airport are pending the court's ruling.
more as a private club, or fiefdom, than a transparent quasi-governmental
agency, its troubles began in 2006 when a VNS investigation reported that the
PAC had 'run off' Newport News building inspection officials because they were
too strict in overseeing construction of two new buildings.
airport then appointed Falin, the airport manager, to serve as its own building
inspector. That was legal, except that Falin was not qualified under state law
for more than a year to be conducting such inspections. He has since been
certified. PAC called in specialists, such as concrete consultants, to oversee
complex building aspects outside Falin's competency. (See:
Peninsula Airport buildings may have been illegally built)
Oct. 2006, VNS reported that taxpayers and other airports in Virginia had been
ripped off for a $28 MILLION 'fantasy-park' ramp built ostensibly for a 2003
Aviation World's Fair that had sat unused for more than 3-years without ever
being used even for 1-minute for aviation purposes. (See: Rip
off ramp has never served an aviation purpose - not even for parking aircraft).
asked by VNS about statements made by other aviation officials that he entered
the deal with the state the Aviation Worlds Fair to get the $28 MILLION ramp
funding and then sabotaged the air show so he could convert the funds to
his own airport use, Smith did not deny the allegations. The Aviation Worlds
Fair was never held.
investigation did uncover that Falin had used taxpayer-owned resources - the
'fantasy' ramp, computers, and Internet - to promote and host his own Mustang
Club car shows without cost to attendees, sources said. (See:Airport
manager using government property for private use)
VDOT had fired numerous employees for personal use of computers on government
time, no action was taken against Falin.
apparently to prove the ramp was being used, local police agencies used the $28
MILLION ramp last year for driver's training and
the Presidential aircraft was parked on it once since 2003.
one of multiple disputes with airport tenants, Smith forced Rick Aviation Inc. (RAI)
to evict Hampton University's aviation training
school. It had been hosted in RAI's facilities, but when the PAC changed the
rules, RAI had no choice, but evict the school to remain a tenant. (See: Peninsula
Airport forced eviction of Hampton University)
also tried to evict Airborne Tactical Advantage Co. (ATAC) - a tenant with a
military contract to train 'Top Gun' pilots - saying airport officials weren't
aware they were even tenants of the airport. Yet prior to that action a front
page feature story about ATAC was on the front page of the Peninsula's Daily
Press newspaper. (See: Peninsula
airport's action designed to drive defense contractor out of business)
went to court and the airport lawyer, Herbert Kelly Jr. got Circuit Court Judge
C. Peter Tench to hear the case and he ruled against ATAC.
was, however, Tench acted illegally because he was a former employee of Kelly's
law firm. With lightening speed and almost unprecedented action, the Virginia
Supreme Court reversed Tench, slapping his and Kelly's judicial hands.
least since 2005 numerous regulatory investigations have been requested of the
Federal Aviation Administration by tenants in addition to the state court
Virginia Beach-based Unalienable Rights Foundation (UARF) filed numerous Freedom
of Information Act requests for financial and other records of the airport.
airport has 'stone-walled' the FOIAs and UARF has put the issues on hold while
other legal maneuvers are being refined.
example, the PAC members, for the most part, have failed for years to file the
state-law required Financial Disclosure Statements and other airport records
that are supposed to be archived by the Virginia State Librarian.
Lindsey, president of UARF, said, "We (UARF) have other issues that are
more time consuming than dealing with the airport right now. We will address
those issues at a later date."