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Airport CEO spent $37K on travel in first year

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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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  • nothing to see; move along
    so the guy responsible for transportation does a lot of traveling and has lots of meeting with regulators and the airlines that use his airport. I have no way of knowing which trips were appropriate and which were not but I expect lots of travel for this job.
  • not an opinion
    This is reporting, not an opinion or editorial...They reported the facts (although they should have found what his predecessors spent on trips annually).

    The informed us the some Weekly paper in Jack. accused him of lavish spending. They also reported that airport officals believe he is the target of a â??hatchet jobâ?? by Florida investigators backed by the Jacksonville airportâ??s police union.

    I hope their next article relies on in-house research...compare his current spending to other airport executives (of comparable size) or compare it to his predecessors.
  • Time To Guy
    I can't believe people on here are actually making excuses for John Clark's behavior.

    He was days within being booted out of the Jacksonville Airport for his lavish lifestyle lived at taxpayer expense. When a council member tried to request documentation regarding what Clark was doing, Clark tried to charge him tens of thousands of dollars before he would provide the documents. The guy is corrupt...and he thinks he is at a place right now where people won't ask tough questions about what he is doing with public money. Guess he didn't count on the IBJ.
  • Re:
    In repsponse to the first post that said the article didn't say the guys name other than Clark, try reading the 3rd paragraph:

    "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."

    I think the article is about a guy that went hog wild spending at his previous job was hired here. His spending does directly affect everyone that flys in and out of IAA. His costs have to be covered by the rents and takeoff/landing fees paid by the airlines which are passed on to consumers. I don't really understand what all you posters are complaining about, this is the Indianapolis Business Journal, this is a business related article.
  • Nice Going...
    Solid reporting, you never even mentioned his first name. You identified the only subject this story is about as Clark. Solid job IBJ!
  • No accusation
    I don't think anywhere in the IBJ article are that steadfastly accusing or blaming this individual for his work here. I think they are showing the examples of trips, and why the costs are associated with his job. Straight facts. They reason they are mentioning this is to a) back him up in showing that no wrong-doing has ocurred in his first year here b)following up on a story that they originally wrote about based on an investigation in another State. They aren't pointing figures, just showing that since he has been here. Looks like no wrong-doing has ocurred.
  • This story is absurd
    What is this story about? That a CEO of a major airport traveled for his job and the company paid for it? That's groundbreaking. It's not like he was flying hookers in from vegas and writing it off. Better stick to Durham news, IBJ. I hear he sold a carpet and sofa on craigslist.
  • Fishing
    So, basically IBJ is fishing for a story here, no?

    Let me get this straight: the trips he took were either for a field-related organization for which he was once the North American chairman and spending time with airline reps (which the article later states is part of his job).

    The article then goes on to mention that his salary and expenses are not provided by taxpayers and that the author does not know how Mr. Clark's predecessors compare by stating, "It was not immediately clear how Clark�s travel expenses compare with his predecessors."

    I thought the IBJ was an objective business publication. This feels like one of those 'investigative reports' to which the local television news stations have stooped.

    Nothing like stirring up a little unwarranted controversy.

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