Authority to adopt some ideas from Grand Jury
Josh Dulaney, Staff Writer
Posted: 08/10/2011 08:00:49 PM PDT

Airport officials adopted a series of responses Wednesday to several recommendations made by an auditor and published in a mostly negative Grand Jury report that questions how officials have handled the transformation of the former Norton Air Force Base into a commercial airport.

“Today we are prepared to go forward to complete that which we have started, the conversion of Norton Air Force Base into a commercial airport operation ” said Donald L. Rogers, the San Bernardino International Airport’s interim executive director. The San Bernardino International Airport Authority – a joint-powers authority composed of San Bernardino County and the cities of San Bernardino, Colton, Loma Linda and Highland – agreed with the recommendations and said many of them already have been put into practice.

Among the key agreements with the auditor’s findings, which will be published in an official response to the Grand Jury report by Aug. 30, the airport authority will:

Review contracts for construction services and operations managed by developer Scot Spencer – a convicted felon who has served time in federal prison for bankruptcy fraud – to make any changes necessary to protect the airport from future risks. Develop comprehensive policies and procedures, and refine efforts to ensure in-depth documentation of business processes and transactions.

Rotate financial auditing firms every five years and seek a reputable, independent auditing firm to look at all expenses connected with the terminal project and other projects.

While the San Francisco-based auditor Harvey M. Rose Associates recommended that the changes be made within 12 months of the report, Mike Burrows, the airport’s assistant director, said the airport authority is looking to address the recommendations even quicker. “In many instances we’ve looked to compress that,” Burrows said.

Some of the 16 recommendations will be put into practice within eight months, including requiring the chief financial officer’s review and approval of all expenses before project funds are disbursed, officials said.

In addition to the auditor’s recommendations, the airport authority approved four self-imposed practices.

Those include the formation of an airport authority audit committee, annual performance review of executive management and staff, updating its investment policies, and directing management to develop comprehensive policies and procedures for design-build on major projects.

Officials acknowledged that the process of responding to the Grand Jury report has been both painful and fruitful.

“It’s not been easy, it’s been very difficult,” said Josie Gonzales, chairwoman of the county Board of Supervisors, and member of the authority board. Gonzales said the “airport is ready to fly” after years of sacrifice and investment by those who “believed in this ugly little leftover.”

To read entire story, click here.