Auditor Edelen calls for overhaul of CVG airport board as part of investigation findings

08/19/2014 04:38 PM

HEBRON — State Auditor Adam Edelen is calling for a complete overhaul of the governance structure of the Kenton County Airport Board, which runs the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, to end what he calls decades of waste and abuse.

Edelen, who was in Northern Kentucky on Tuesday to release the results of a special nine-month examination of the CVG board, called for the state legislature to revise statutes that would change the makeup of the boards voting members.

There are currently seven voting members who are all appointed by the Kenton County judge-executive and the 11 voting members making up the advisory committee — something Edelen said was ripe for abuse.

During the investigation the auditor’s office found documents created by outgoing Kenton County Judge Executive creating a criteria for ideal board members — including a bullet item asking if the board candidate is a supporter or a future supporter of his campaign.

“For far too long, CVG has served as a political appendage of the Kenton County judge-executive’s office. Today, I am proposing reform to bring much needed accountability and representation that reflects all stakeholders of this regional asset,” Edelen said.

Edelen called for the following officials to have the power to appoint members:

- Three appointments by Kenton Co. Judge-exec., with confirmation by fiscal court – Two appointments by Boone Co. Judge-exec., with confirmation by fiscal court – One appointment by Campbell Co. judge-exec., with confirmation by fiscal court – Two appointments by Kentucky governor – One appointment by Ohio governor – One appointment by mayor of Cincinnati, with confirmation by city council – One appointment by Hamilton Co., Ohio Board of Commissioners

The board make-up would need to be changed via statute during the 2015 general assembly. However there were not any legislators in attendance at the announcement of the findings on Tuesday.

Edelen said there is support among state legislators and feels that a bill to change the selection process for the board can be passed during the 2015 session.

“What’s pretty clear is that the status quo is absolutely indefensible,” Edelen said. “You are either on the part of reform in the hope of having a more vibrant and progressive airport that is outwardly focused rather than inwardly focused, or you’re a guardian of the status quo.”

Kenton County judge-executive elect, Kris Knochelmann, supported the findings despite the fact that it would take away the power of the Kenton County judge-executive to appoint all of the board members.

“For those who might believe that expanding representation to Ohio and other counties on the board is a mistake, I simply ask the question, what are you afraid of? It will do nothing but strengthen the airport by having everyone with skin in the game and everyone at the table with a real vote,” Knochelmann said.

Knochelmann plans to work with local legislators to craft a bill to make the CVG board changes a reality during the 2015 session.

“We’ll go to Frankfort, lobby on behalf of that bill, and I’m very confident that we will have a lot of support going into the session,” said Knochelmann. “My hope is that it will happen very, very, fast.

For years Boone County officials have lobbied for voting representation on the CVG board since the entire airport is within county lines.

Boone County judge-executive Gary Moore believes that Tuesday’s proposal has been a long time coming for his county.

“The fact that the 7000 acres all lie in Boone County, and yet today we do not have a voting member appointed by the Boone County elected officials. So, it’s time for that to change,” Moore said.

Edelen brushed aside speculation that some Northern Kentuckians may be unhappy about the fact that Edelen’s proposal calls for 3 board representatives from Ohio.

“The destinies of Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati are linked and anybody who denies that is not tuned in to reality,” said Edelen.

In all, the 48-page report detailed 11 other findings and recommendations including looking at ways to curtail expenses and duplication of services related to contract work as well as develop policy that regulates the cost of travel and related meals.

The Kenton County Airport Board has 60 days to submit a written response to Edelen’s office.

The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport has lost 500 daily flights and millions of passengers since 2005. It ranks consistently as one of the most expensive airports in the country.

About Don Weber

Don Weber joined cn|2 when it launched back in May 2010 and soon became a reporter for Pure Politics. He is a graduate of Northern Kentucky University and has spent many years covering everything from politics to sports. Don says he loves meeting new people everyday as part of his job and also enjoys the fact that no two days are the same when he comes to work. Don Weber can be reached at donald.weber@charter.com.

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