Audit Calls For Sweeping Change Of CVG Board; Airport Is Not Kenton Co’s, Auditor Says
By Mike Perleberg
(Hebron, Ky.) – Change may be in the air at the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport.
Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen released his much-anticipated report on the Kenton County Airport Board, the board which controls CVG, on Tuesday.
The investigation by the state auditor began last November amidst media reports of dysfunction and travel spending abuse by the airport board members.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE FULL REPORT (PDF).
Edelen is calling for a complete overhaul “to end decades of waste and abuse.” He wants the seven voting members all appointed by Kenton County’s Judge-Executive to be replaced by a board of 11 members appointed from a more diverse set of governments.
|Kentucky auditor’s recommended appointments to the airport board:
• Three appointments by the Kenton County judge-executive, with confirmation by fiscal court;
• Two appointments by the Boone County judge-executive, with confirmation by fiscal court;
• One appointment by the Campbell County judge-executive, with confirmation by fiscal court;
• Two appointments by the Kentucky governor;
• One appointment by the Ohio governor;
• One appointment by the mayor of Cincinnati, with confirmation by city council;
• One appointment by the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners.
“For far too long, CVG has served as a political appendage of the Kenton County judge-executive,” Edelen said. “One individual literally controls an airport that serves a metropolitan area of 2.1 million people and is critical to the economic vitality of the region and two states. Today, I am proposing reform to bring much-needed accountability and representation that reflects all the stakeholders of this regional asset.”
Among the most telling documents uncovered in Edelen’s audit was one created by outgoing Kenton County Judge-Executive Steve Arlinghaus. It outlined criteria for “ideal board members” which included a bullet stating “Current supporter or future supporter of my campaign.”
Under Edelen’s proposal, three board members would be appointed by Ohio officials. Boone County’s Judge-Executive would get to appoint two members with approval of the county fiscal court.
There was no inclusion of a voting board member from southeast Indiana.
Any change to the board makeup of voting members is still a long way off. It would require action by state lawmakers first.
The support seems to exist for a change to occur. Edelen’s report has been endorsed by figures including Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear, Boone County Judge-Executive Gary Moore, and Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley. State lawmakers from northern Kentucky have also voiced support. Surprisingly, Kenton County Judge-Executive-elect Kris Knochelmann also supports Edelen’s proposal
“Sometimes the only way to reform a broken institution is by starting over,” Knochelmann said in a statement. “After reading Auditor Edelen’s report, I have come to the conclusion that the problems we are discussing today are in large part a result of the antiquated structure of the board itself. I am not here to dwell on the past or take aim at the good men and women who have served on the board over the years, but to affirm the existing structure of the airport’s governing body is in need of wholesale change.”
According to a press release from Edelman’s office, the report dispels a long-running belief that the airport is Kenton County’s asset, a notion that has been used to justify continued control by the Kenton County judge-executive. Kenton County is the original sponsor of CVG, providing financial assistance at the onset of the project and establishing the original governing body for the airport. However, CVG, as the Kenton County Airport Board, including the land on which it operates, is not included in the financial statements of the Kenton County Fiscal Court. Moreover, Kenton County provides no funding for CVG and is not financially-obligated for any of the airport’s bonds. CVG does not remit taxes or fees to Kenton County.
Knochelmann said the audit confirms what many have thought all along: the airport located in Boone County is owned by the airport board, not Kenton County.
“The only thing that has become a county asset over the years is the Kenton County judge/executive’s power to unilaterally appoint members to the board, and that is the type of old-style politics this county no longer needs. It’s time for a new day in Kenton County,” Knochelman said.