Sunday, September 25, 2011 – 11:30  a.m.

It was only a matter of time before federal officials descended onto the debacle involving the redevelopment of the former Norton Air Force Base.

The memory of the former Inland Empire military installation deserves better.

I’ve never witnessed a local government agency be used as has both the Inland Valley Development Agency (IVDA) and San Bernardino International Airport Authority (SBIAA) have.

Both agencies are charged with the redevelopment and operation of the former base property and surrounding redevelopment project area.

Last week agents for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) served several search warrants related to activities at the San Bernardino International Airport (SBIA).

The facility and its operations has fallen under intense scrutiny over the expenditure of approximately $200 million in federal, state and local funding.

Need for an Airport

With passenger airlines operating out of Palm Springs, Ontario, Costa Mesa, Burbank and Los Angeles, there was really never any need for such activity at San Bernardino International Airport.

SBIAA and IVDA officials have been told as much on more than one occasion.

Recently, a consultant informed SBIAA that if no passenger airline were secured to operate from the airport by June 2012 the timeline for achieving such a goal would take years.

Questions have steadily persisted over pursuing a reuse model with questionable viability.

Competitive Bidding

Competitive bidding requirements designed to get taxpayers the best price for services performed? Not at IVDA and SBIAA! Both agencies have run amok in ignoring such matters.

Why you ask? To benefit local business players.

Eliminating competitive bidding benefits benefactors while screwing taxpayers.

Forget about any airlines. Who cares?

Just keep dishing out those contracts.

Want to pass on the aforementioned competitive bidding? Just let a contractor or tenant or some other business assign a contract for the work, instead of SBIAA or IVDA, and presto!

Who cares how much it costs taxpayers.

Have a contractor perform work not to code? Who cares? We’ll tear it out and do it again. Paid for by taxpayers.

Build a passenger terminal in the wrong location. Who cares? We’ll build a new one out near Victoria Avenue and Third Street, the location where the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says it must go, at more than twice the price.

Cha-ching!

Focus on Contracts

Expect contracts awarded to local entities such as  Matich Corp. and Bogh Construction among others to draw extra scrutiny. Both businesses have benefited hugely from the SBIAA largess, with Matich reportedly garnering near half of all money spent.

The Spencer Factor

One major focus is directed towards contractor Scot Spencer.

Spencer, a convicted felon resulting from his days as an executive at bankrupt Braniff Airlines, has found a way to acquire control of much of the airport facility.

At this point, it’s unclear if Spencer has ever paid any of his own businesses money to SBIAA.

Spencer routinely falls into arrears on his rent payments. Routinely, SBIAA must roll over delinquent payments owed by Spencer into new loan facilities.

Secondly, Spencer seems to be intentionally delaying the completion of the proposed Customs building because the filing of a notice of completion would trigger Spencer’s rent payments to commence.

Third, SBIAA officials have been desperately trying to have the Sheriff’s Department move it’s Rialto Airport-based aviation division into the new hangar adjacent to the Million Air building. The hangar was suppose to house private jets. But as of now the only aircraft stored is Wonder Woman’s plane.

The lease payments paid by the county and subsidized by the IVDA would allegedly cover Spencer’s rent payments for the hangar.

In addition, Spencer reportedly owes more than a half-million dollars in overdue property taxes.

The ‘Schmooze’ Factor

The question of how could elected officials allow this to happen is on many minds.

I call it the schmooze factor.

Yes, it’s the ritual of bringing a new board member, who’s clueless about airports I might add, and bamboozle them with a tour of the facility.

It does look pretty, and it’s truly impressive. But, it’s a loser.

The awed official is then now sold on the airport becoming a commuter hub and blindly follows SBIAA managements every desire.

An embarrassing quandary to say the least.

A Series of Investigations

The active airport investigation now joins ongoing FBI investigations into the settlement between the county and Colonies Partners, Arrowhead Regional Medical Center and the City of Upland.

One would expect the circumstances surrounding the finances of the City of Victorville to become an issue for federal investigators, if it hasn’t already.