Former airport manager accuses board member of having conflict of interest
Jan 12, 2013 (Yakima Herald-Republic - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
YAKIMA, Wash. -- Former Yakima Air Terminal Manager Lee Remmel is arguing that the city of Yakima's appointment of Dennis Klingele last year to the airport board creates a conflict of interest.
In a letter dated Tuesday to Mayor Micah Cawley, Remmel wrote that Klingele, a local businessman, has a long-term land lease for his hangar with the airport and could not ethically discuss or cast votes on setting airport rates and fees, lease negotiations or the airport budget.
"Mr. Klingele is directly responsible for the rate he is charged on the property leased for an extended period of time," Remmel wrote. "Mr. Klingele is both the regulator and the regulated."
Remmel, who was fired by the airport board in September, did not return a phone call requesting further comment. Cawley said he has not yet read the letter and could not comment.
The board fired Remmel, citing the airport's chronic financial problems and inability to attract tenants.
Klingele, who chose to oust Remmel in the 3-1 vote, said in a phone interview Friday that he was not aware of the letter. But he dismissed the claim of a conflict, noting that there have been other board members that have leased and sub-leased property on the airport.
For example, former board member Tomas Holbrook owns a hangar at Yakima Airpark, which is leasing property on the southside of the airport.
Klingele also said he was upfront with city officials regarding his lease at the airport. "I frankly shrug my shoulders and let it be," he said.
Remmel ended his letter by stating that if the city of Yakima should take sole ownership of the airport as proposed, it should not appoint Klingele to a possible advisory board.
"By choosing not to identify his position within the rate-setting airport board, he is fully and ethically compromised at this point," Remmel said.
After several years of airport budget shortfalls, the Yakima City Council recently decided it was time to change the way the airport is managed.
While the city of Yakima pursues sole ownership of the airport, officials from the city and Yakima County -- an airport co-owner -- are evaluating outside management proposals.
Meanwhile, the Yakima City Council will vote to approve an agreement with Airplanners LLC for air service development and consulting services at its Tuesday meeting.
Airplanners LLC is an Avon, Colo.-based consulting firm that specializes in developing air service for smaller airports.
--Mai Hoang can be reached at 509-759-7851 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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