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Clark leaves suddenly as airport chief

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The Indianapolis Airport Authority announced late Monday afternoon that CEO John D. Clark III has stepped down, effective immediately.

Recently appointed airport board president Mike Wells said the parting of ways came after he and Clark met Monday afternoon "to discuss how we were going to go forward and whether we were going to go forward."

He said the two met because a three-year letter of intent Clark signed when he joined the aiport was set to expire soon. He said Clark had worked under a letter of intent, never a formal contract. Wells said he was not sure why that was the case.

Asked whether he had been happy with Clark's performance or whether Clark's large expenditures on travel were a factor in his departure, Wells said: "It's a personnel matter. Our policy is not to discuss those things."

The sudden departure comes just two weeks after IBJ reported that Clark and two key officers spent more than $67,000 last year on travel that included extended trips to Brazil, Denmark, Greece, Morocco and Switzerland.

In that article, Wells said he planned to tighten oversight of executives' travel. He conceded that he could be perceived by airport executives as micromanaging.

"If so, so be it," said Wells, who was appointed to the post by Mayor Greg Ballard. "I'm probably not going to win homecoming king at the airport."

WXIN-TV Channel 59, IBJ's newsgathering partner, reported late Monday afternoon that Ballard was unhappy with the pace of economic development at the airport.

"I think that’s been slow, much slower than I would have expected," Ballard told the station.

"It may have been the recession. It may have been all the economic downturn but I want to have more plans for development out there. That’s what I’m mostly focused on."

Airport officials said Robert Duncan, a longtime airport executive who retired last year, has been named interim director, pending approval of the authority's board, which meets Friday.

Duncan would hold the position until a search for Clark’s successor has been completed, according to a press release from the authority, which manages the airport.

“We thank John for his service during a period of turbulence in the aviation industry,” Wells said in a prepared statement. “Despite these challenges, we believe that there is a great opportunity ahead for the Indianapolis International Airport.”

Clark, 51, was not immediately available for comment.

In a prepared statement distributed by the airport authority, Clark said: “I want to thank my team of fellow IAA employees; together, we accomplished a lot over the past three years. An airport is one of the most powerful economic development engines a region can have, and from day one we have worked to position the Indianapolis International Airport for long-term growth and success.”

In IBJ's article on airport executives' travel earlier this month, Clark had defended the overseas trips, saying they helped management learn best practices. He pointed out that the airport spent less than three-tenths of 1 percent of its operating expenses on travel and related expenses in 2011.

WXIN reported on Clark’s travel expenses late last year. Michael Stayton, the airport authority president at the time, told the station that he had personally reviewed Clark’s travel expenditures and had no problem with them.

Technically, money spent on airport executives' air travel does not come from tax dollars. Clark said in a statement he provided for IBJ's March 10 article that travel expenses are funded entirely by revenue from airlines, which comes in the form of landing fees and space rentals.

Airlines "have praised the IAA for its fiscal management and commitment to lowering airline costs even as they are increasing at many airports," he said in the statement.

Clark came to Indianapolis from the Jacksonville, Fla., airport, where his travel expenses also had generated controversy.

 

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  • Doing the Right Stuff
    We're headed in the right direction now.

    Mayor Ballard's decision to re-appoint Mike Wells to the IAA board was an excellent call. Mike is a solid leader who has made a number of decisions that have benefitted Indianapolis. And Wells' decision to hire Bob Duncan back is proof of that. Duncan has forgotten more about how to run an airport than most people will ever know.

    The decision to hire Clark was made when the IAA board chairman was "Ambassador" Randall Tobias, who is no longer there.
  • Dah!
    Not only this guy but I believe his predecessor, as well, had similar track records before 'landing" here. My question is this: Who's responsible for hiring these clowns?
  • CICP
    Who else went on these golf trips with Clark all over the world?
  • Clark leaves and needs to take someone with him!
    Please take Frank Straub with you, Mr. Clark! You both have an extraordinary way of spending OUR money! Straub's remodeling of his suite, complete with personal shower (likely for NY "liasions", or "payback") cost more than Mr. Clark's junkets!

    How much travel & expense has Indianapolis paid for Frank Straub's trips to the east coast?

    The Greatest thing would be for Mr. Clark and Frank Straub to skip town together, hand-in-hand!!!
  • Exactly
    He did this at his last position, why would you hire him knowing he mishandled funds? I like the comment in the story, "Technically, money spent on airport executives' air travel does not come from tax dollars. Clark said in a statement he provided for IBJ's March 10 article that travel expenses are funded entirely by revenue from airlines, which comes in the form of landing fees and space rentals." So "technically", still not HIS money to spend!
  • Now What?
    Certainly there is more to the story with the recent resignation of the board chairman, but one should ask what was accomplished over the previous three years.

    We have a big expensive land use plan, that Decatur township has completely ignored and a lawsuit fighting over parking revenue.

    No progress on redeveloping the old passenger terminal.

    No light rail from the airport to downtown.

    No airport hotel connected to the midfield passenger terminal.

    No significant progress on international or domestic passenger or cargo flights.

    But, we do have a bizarre idea to created a 60 acre solar farm on prime real estate in front of the midfield passenger terminal in overcast Indy.
  • They knew..the Airport Board
    They knew this guy had issues in J-ville, FL, yet they still hired him as if one person changes their ways...typical Indianapolis politics, turn the other cheek...shameful!
  • Comparison
    What is the average annual travel expense for airport executives at other airports of comparable size?
  • H-m-m-m-m-m-m . . .
    Obviously more here than meets the eye!! What DID Mr. Clark accomplish while he was here? Appears it was mostly a nice vacation.
    Where do I apply for that Job!!
  • Applause for Mr. Wells
    Indeed, Indianapolis is a better place. It is about time that people are held accountable for their actions, and not be allowed to do whatever they desire to do because of their positions. I applaud Mr. Wells for doing the "right thing".
  • Clark leaves as Airport Chief
    Indianapolis is a better place.

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