The man hired to oversee San Bernardino International Airport and its related agencies following an FBI raid and stinging county grand jury report last year will remain at the helm one more year at a higher price of $351,000.
A.J. Wilson was hired in November 2011 after the agency's longtime executive director, Donald L. Rogers, resigned. The original one-year contract was worth $315,000, or $150 an hour and a maximum 40-hour week. The new contract allows Wilson, the interim executive director of both the San Bernardino International Airport Authority and the Inland Valley Development Agency, to bill for up to 45 hours a week, raising his potential earnings to $351,000.
As a contractor, Wilson doesn't receive benefits with the exception of personal days.
At the Wednesday, Nov. 14, meeting where authority members voted to approve Wilson's contract, they also decided to spend as much as $50,000 to hire an aviation expert to lure an airline to San Bernardino.
The airport authority had come under critical scrutiny for financial agreements it had made with Scot Spencer, who was chosen in 2007 to oversee development of the former Norton Air Force Base into a commercial airport.
The projects rose in price from $45 million to more than $200 million, with Spencer receiving a percentage. Five years later, the airport still has no scheduled airline service. The county's grand jury criticized the airport's relationship with Spencer and, in September 2011, the FBI led a raid of Spencer's offices and rented Riverside home as well as the airport authority's office. The investigation is still pending.
On Wednesday, airport authority board members expressed appreciation for Wilson and the job he has done in the past 12 months. Among the challenges Wilson faced were legal entanglements and bankruptcies involving Spencer's companies and a state law that dissolved the airport's main funding source -- the redevelopment powers of the related Inland Valley Development Agency. The IVDA filed a legal challenge but has not succeeded in persuading the state that it should be exempt from the law that dissolved redevelopment agencies.
Patrick Morris, mayor of San Bernardino and president of the airport authority, said Wilson has done an exceptional job. He also admitted the entanglements the agency has faced over the past year were the result of board members' decisions.
San Bernardino County Supervisor Josie Gonzales was the only board member to temper her comments about Wilson. She said she was "reasonably impressed" with him, considering the immense tasks he faced. She said she wants to see the board begin recruitment for a permanent executive director within six months.
At the same meeting, Wilson outlined his plan for the airport's future. It included finishing construction of a three-story building to house U.S. Customs for international arrivals. At the meeting, authority members voted to spend another $4.1 million to finish it.
The plan also listed the airport's short-term opportunities -- serving as a hub for corporate flights, general aviation, cargo, commercial passenger service and aircraft maintenance firms. Two aircraft maintenance firms already are doing business at the airport.
"It is a re-inauguration of sorts, if you will, with ourselves," Morris said of Wilson's plan.
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