11:04 PM PDT on Wednesday, September 28, 2011

BY KIMBERLY PIERCEALL
STAFF WRITER
kpierceall@pe.com

A week after an FBI raid, Donald L. Rogers, executive director of the embattled public agencies that oversee San Bernardino International Airport, resigned Wednesday.

For the past nine years, Rogers, 71, has led the two agencies overseeing Norton Air Force Base’s redevelopment, according to a statement he read during the San Bernardino International Airport Authority meeting. Rogers led the authority and the Inland Valley Development Agency as a consultant.

Airport offices were raided by the FBI and local authorities a week ago. The action followed the June 30 release of a scathing San Bernardino County civil grand jury report that raised questions about Rogers’ management and business relationship with Scot Spencer, a convicted felon who was awarded two no-bid agreements to develop a commercial airport terminal and luxury aviation hub for private planes and their pilots. The cost to develop those and a few other airport buildings under Spencer’s agreements has risen from $45 million to more than $142.5 million since 2007.

Since Norton Air Force Base closed in 1994, the IVDA and SBIAA boards have been using federal funds and local property tax revenue to redevelop the base and replace the 10,000 jobs that were lost when the military left. The majority of development so far has been warehouses and the massive 2.1 million-square-foot headquarters of Stater Bros. Markets.

Officials have debated whether to build a cargo airport or a commercial airport for leisure travelers. Both agencies are made up of elected leaders from San Bernardino County and cities in the east San Bernardino valley appointed to the board.

Rogers said he originally submitted his resignation in April and had planned to leave at the end of August. But since the agencies had made no move to replace him, he rescinded his resignation Aug. 29.

“I now think the process will proceed faster, and that it will be in the best interests of the IVDA and SBIAA if I retire now,” he said Wednesday. Rogers offered to remain a consultant on an hourly basis as needed through the end of the year.

There were no comments from the public during Wednesday’s meetings.

Afterward, the co-chairs of the IVDA, San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris and San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzales, commended Rogers for his accomplishments.

“He was a remarkably strong executive director that helped this board over the generations redevelop what was a blighted base,” Morris said.

Gonzales called Rogers’ exit “bittersweet,” adding that it was unfortunate it had to come after six federal search warrants were served at the airport Sept. 21. The seventh warrant was served on Spencer’s home.

FBI agents removed enough documents, computers and at least one safe to fill a 26-foot-long U-Haul truck, including invoices from vendors.

Just before Rogers announced his retirement, he addressed airport vendors in attendance, assuring them that officials were doing what they could to retrieve any billing statements or other documents that might affect payments to them.

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