Sunday, July 17, 2011 – 11:30 a.m.

A scathing report the San Bernardino County Grand Jury dropped the San Bernardino International Airport Authority (SBIAA) back on June 28 will most likely have an unintended consequence.

The report, which has received wide-spread attention in the news media and on the Internet, will likely attract federal attention.

And it’s attention which is likely warranted.

The SBIAA has received millions of dollars in federal support, giving rise to the strong possibility of inquiry or investigation.

The voluminous report list several damning practices.

And one of the many troubling allegation involves San Bernardino Mayor Patrick Morris. Morris also acts as Chairman of SBIAA.

Page 2-26 of an audit report commissioned by the Grand Jury, and performed by the well-respected Harvey M. Rose Associates, reveals an alarming practice involving Morris, a licensed attorney and former Superior Court Judge.

The section titled Commission Chair’s Level of Involvement in Funding Process Unusual reads as follows:

The chair of the Commission has been given an active role in the approval of Terminal Development and FBO (meaning Fixed Based Operations) project expenses, normally reserved for staff-level positions who had substantial capital project experience and knowledge of the details of the project. Under the fund control process set up for the two projects, three signatures are required before the fund control agency can issue checks to the payees. One of these signatures must be from a representative of the developer, a second signature must be from the IVDA/SBIAA (the Interim Executive Director, Assistant Director, or Chief Financial Officer), and a third signature must come from a Chair of the SBIAA Commission/IVDA Board or from the Vice-Chair of the Commission. A review of a sample of Terminal and FBO project payment vouchers has found that the Chair of the SBIAA Commission has approved the vast majority of expenses submitted. Further, there is no evidence that the Chief Financial Officer approved any of the expense vouchers for either project.

The SBIAA’s response to the report, so far, has been to call the document a hit piece and rebuke it by saying it misrepresents facts.

If the saying, where there’s smoke, there’s fire, holds true. Then the situation at the SBIAA is a volcano.

The big question here is how did a well-intentioned endeavour get so far off course and become basically a black hole for taxpayer money?

Another question is when did Morris obtain the training and experience necessary to exercise such power over project review and disbursements?

The likely answer to this question is he didn’t.

The Cities of Highland, Grand Terrace, and Loma Linda and the County of San Bernardino all sit on the governing commission and all bare responsibility.

It’ll be interesting to see what familiar names are tied to the SBIAA money machine behind the scenes.