SBIA Aircraft Photo

Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/26/2013 12:44:55 PM PDT

Bios: Scot Spencer | Felice Luciano
Photo Gallery: D.A. files charges against Scot Spencer
View: Scot Spencer investigative report | Criminal complaint | Statement from 5th District Supervisor Josie Gonzales | 2010-11 Grand Jury report
Timeline: SBIA and Scot Spencer
Related stories: Grand Jury questions management practices at SBIA | Former SBIA developer Scot Spencer charged with $1.75 million fraud

San Bernardino International Airport officials’ willingness to trust Scot Spencer – now charged with five felonies and the owner of a criminal record when he began his relationship with SBIA – with developing a passenger terminal and other key facilities may have come from a lack of others’ interest in taking on a project that may have had a slim chance of success in the first place.

That’s the interpretation of former L.A./Ontario International Airport manager Michael DiGirolamo, who said Tuesday that conversion of former Air Force bases in San Bernardino, Victorville and Riverside into civilian airports was never certain of success, despite the aspirations of officials in those communities.

“Are they viable entities? It depends on your perspective,” DiGirolomo said Tuesday.

“It’s very easy to sit back and say it might not be a viable airport and attract not viable people, and that may be part of the problem. ”

This week, Spencer was charged with conspiracy for allegedly seeking to defraud the San Bernardino International Airport Authority of more than $1 million by filing a false claim.

In his many roles at SBIA – before airport officials severed their relationship with him last fall – Spencer was a key figure in the attempt to convert the former Norton Air Force Base into a commercial airport. SBIA presently serves charter flights, but its new terminal has yet to host a passenger carrier although airport boosters continue to express confidence SBIA prove to be a viable airport and economic hub.

“We’re very optimistic that we have built an airport with an array of services. We’ve got a maintenance are fully leased now. We’ve completely disgorged our relationship with Spencer,” San Bernardino Mayor and airport board president Pat Morris said.

“The only thing we don’t have now is scheduled airline service, and it will come,” he added.

Morris, who began his first term as San Bernardino’s mayor in 2006, has also held a leadership role on the San Bernardino International Airport Authority’s governing board during much of the time Spencer and the companies he managed were entrusted with vital airport projects.

Morris, as well as former airport board members who served when Spencer was hired to manage the terminal in project in 2007, said few, if any, alternative candidates stepped forward at the time to take on the project. They also defended their decision to work with Spencer despite the fact that he had done time in federal prison for bankruptcy fraud. Spencer was sentenced to 51 months of federal prison in 1996 after being convicted failing to disclose payments he had received from Braniff Airlines while that company was in bankruptcy protection.

Morris served as a Superior Court judge before being elected as San Bernardino’s mayor. He said he believed Spencer’s knowledge of the airport industry and prior experience doing business at SBIA justified officials’ decision to hire his company to build the airport’s terminal and other capital improvements.

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