Josh Dulaney, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/09/2011 07:50:17 PM PDT

Amid an FBI probe into San Bernardino International Airport, one elected official has called for more transparency with the public and a wholesale change to internal communications at the airport.

“My frustration comes from a lack of communication, from decisions being made in a vacuum by a very select few and I am beyond angry because something this precious, something this loved, something this needed like this airport project doesn’t belong to one, two, three, four or five people,” said Supervisor Josie Gonzales.

During a meeting of the Airport Operations and Performance Compliance Committee last week in Loma Linda, Gonzales outlined a series of immediate changes she wants to see at the airport.

Those changes range from posting meeting agendas online to overhauling the airport’s phone system, which Gonzales said doesn’t facilitate good customer service.

“Either there is a live person answering that telephone tomorrow or I’m going to come down here and answer the damn phones myself,” Gonzales said.

She got answers immediately.

Assistant Airport Director Mike Burrows said the airport was working out computer hardware problems, but that the agenda for the Wednesday meeting of the San Bernardino International Airport Authority board would be posted online at www.sbairport.com

Still, Gonzales’ anger boiled over.

As an example of the lack of communication between airport staff and the elected board members, Gonzales said she wanted input on Thursday’s committee agenda, but didn’t see the agenda until after it came out.

Among other items she wants addressed in the coming weeks, Gonzales said the airport boards need to be updated on the request for proposals for law firms to look into the contracts of airport developer Scot Spencer, who was named in FBI warrants last month.

Gonzales said she received phone calls from interested attorneys who could not navigate the proposal information on the airport’s website.

The airport board is expected to review Spencer’s contracts during a closed session meeting Wednesday.

Gonzales also wants an update on personnel, including vacant positions and upcoming retirements, saying management needs to inform the boards of its staffing needs.

Other proposed actions include training staff on how to appropriately respond to information requests that fall under the California Public Records Act, and contracting with a public relations firm or part-time public information officer.

While she received support on the idea of a public relations firm from San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris – who presides over the boards of the SBIAA and the Inland Valley Development Agency, which oversee development at the former Norton Air Force Base – Sam Racadio, a Highland councilman, suggested that might not be necessary.

“Maybe it’s just a matter of culture change, which I think we’re bound to see,” Racadio said.

Gonzales also said direction to airport staff needs to go through the interim executive director and be vetted through legal advice.

Such direction needs to be met with consent from the majority of the airport boards before it is acted upon, she said.

Racadio agreed, saying “Most cities have ordinances that say all direction will go through the city manager, that the board members do not give direction to anyone other than the city manager, and that’s done at public meetings.”

Gonzales said structural changes are needed to bring about healthy changes at the airport, admitting that in the past she had often received bad information before making policy decisions.

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