By Joe Nelson and Josh Dulaney, The (San Bernardino County) Sun
Posted: 09/21/2011 10:02:16 AM PDT
SAN BERNARDINO — The FBI on Wednesday served search warrants at San Bernardino International Airport and the Riverside home of airport developer Scot Spencer.
The raid follows an annual report released July 1 by the county’s civil Grand Jury that sharply criticized operations at the airport, alleging questionable practices in its finances, construction management and how it awards developer contracts.
Mayor Pat Morris, who presides over the board of a joint-powers authority that oversees redevelopment of the airport, said at a meeting with The Sun’s
The FBI served federal warrants Wednesday morning at the Inland Valley Development Agency and the San Bernardino International Airport Authority in San Bernardino, and another at a Riverside residence.
editorial board on Wednesday he had no information on the specifics of the federal probe and had not been served with a warrant.
“I’m in the dark on all this, but we’ll have to see what develops,” Morris said.
Morris stands by the oversight of the airport’s operations.
“I believe we were doing business according to the law and by the numbers,” said Morris. “I am totally stunned by the events of today.”
Roughly 80 federal agents arrived at the airport around 9 a.m. as part of a joint investigation with the District Attorney’s Office and the state Attorney General’s Office, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
“We’ve built a helluva airport on a dime, in my opinion. … I am totally stunned by the events of today.” Mayor PAT MORRIS
Among the locations where federal agents assembled were the airport’s administrative offices on South Leland Norton Way and at Million Air, an upscale aircraft refueling facility that is part of a national chain. Warrants were also served at three airport hangars, Eimiller said.
Donald L. Rogers, the airport’s interim executive director, criticized the raid.
“We were, until today, very near a successful completion of the commercialization of the former (base),” he said in an emailed statement. “Over 4,200 jobs have been created and $1.5 billion in assessed valuation has been raised to over $5 billion.”
He also said the FBI’s “very public display of investigative powers will raise doubts in many minds, including potential airlines. Because it will taint perceptions, it may be very damaging.
“As for the airport, I know of no wrongdoing or criminal action that has occurred during my tenure…and I strongly believe politics, not good government, is behind this search warrant (and) that headlines, not real information, was the goal. Time will tell.”
Bill Ingraham, the airport’s aviation director, said he arrived at work Wednesday just before agents arrived with warrants. He said he was told the agents would likely be there all day and was directed to send everyone home.
Ingraham said agents seized his computer and telephone, and were sifting through files in the building.
The airport’s control tower and runway remained open during the search.
“The airport is open,” Ingraham said. “It’s business as usual on the airport side of things.”
Agents served a warrant at Spencer’s gated home in Alessandro Heights, an upscale Riverside neighborhood.
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