Airlines and Indianapolis Airport Authority and Indianapolis International Airport and Transportation, Distribution & Logistics

Airport CEO spent $37K on travel in first year

April 13, 2010

The CEO of the Indianapolis Airport Authority, criticized for his spending while head of the airport system in Jacksonville, Fla., spent $36,693 on travel and lodging during his first year on the job here.

The most costly trip was $6,025 to attend the Airports Council International conference last year in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia, according to records obtained Tuesday from the Indianapolis Airport Authority.

John Clark, who started work at Indianapolis in April 2009, is being investigated by Florida State Attorney Angela Corey. Last month she issued subpoenas to the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, seeking calendars, time sheets and leave records for Clark dating to January 2006.

Corey, who has refused to elaborate on the nature of her inquiry, also issued a subpoena to the Indianapolis Airport Authority seeking information about Clark's travel to Indianapolis for job interviews early last year.

Clark worked for the Jacksonville authority for 14 years, winning praise for making improvements to that city’s airport system even as he alienated others, including airport police, during contract negotiations. In recent years Jacksonville’s alternative newspaper, Folio Weekly, carried accounts alleging lavish travel spending.

Indianapolis Airport Authority board members have stood by Clark. They said they thoroughly vetted their star candidate and that previous media reports were inaccurate.

One airport official has asserted that Clark is the target of a “hatchet job” by Florida investigators backed by the Jacksonville airport’s police union.

While at Jacksonville, Clark also was chairman of the North American arm of Airports Council International.

In Indianapolis, Clark made 23 trips between April 22, 2009, and April 1 of this year. His first trip is recorded as a meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, in Washington, D.C., at a cost of $1,234.

Last June, Clark attended the Airports Council International summer meeting in Manchester, England. The $5,412 cost of the eight-day conference was split between air fare and lodging.

Clark said in a statement Tuesday that his involvement in ACI leadership roles was disclosed to the IAA board “and was acceptable to the board.”

“I believe my affiliation with ACI brings considerable value to IAA in that I am actively involved in discussions regarding national aviation and airport policies. These discussions include congressional testimonies, framing position reports, and representing the interest of [Indianapolis International] in context of policy," he said. "My role as a leader in the airport industry brings credibility to the activities IAA is implementing.”

A month earlier, Clark hosted a gathering for airline executives from Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines at Augusta National Golf Club, in Georgia, costing the airport authority $3,041, according to his expense records.

Besides meeting with airline executives, Clark also had with him Mark Miles, president of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership. The retreat was “for the purpose of fostering current and future business opportunities for IAA,” said the travel records, citing the potential for “air trade development” and “non aeronautical commercial development.”

In February of this year, Clark expensed $1,305 for lodging to “attend Super Bowl with Airline Representative” in Miami.  Clark covered his own plane fare, according to airport records.

Neither Clark nor airport officials could immediately be reached for comment.

Although a municipal agency, the Indianapolis Airport Authority is not supported directly by tax dollars. With the exception of taxpayer-funded grants from the Federal Aviation Administration for airfield projects, the authority gets the bulk of its revenue from airline rent and landing fees. Other large sources of revenue are parking and rent from food and beverage vendors.

But costs have become an issue for the authority. Revenues were forecast last year to come in 15 percent below projections, amid the recession. The airport also is in the midst of negotiations with cost-conscious airlines on a new airport-use agreement.

It was not immediately clear how Clark’s travel expenses compare with his predecessors. Among the airport CEO’s roles is to foster new business opportunities for the airport and to land additional air service.

Clark earns a base salary of $270,000.

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