Gary mayor questions former Indy airport exec’s pay rate

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The mayor of Gary says she wants to re-examine the hourly pay rate for a former Indianapolis airport executive hired to a six-month contract with the city's airport.

The Gary/Chicago International Airport Authority voted unanimously on Monday to approve a contract with John Clark's newly formed JClark Aviation Group that will pay Clark $350 an hour to review the airport's business plan. The contract limits Clark's monthly costs to $5,000.

Freeman-Wilson told The Times in Munster that the pay rate "does not sound correct," but a copy of an unsigned contract between the airport and Clark obtained by the newspaper shows Clark's company will receive that amount, as well as reimbursement for expenses of up to $200 per month.

Clark left the Indianapolis airport March 19 after the board declined to renew his three-year contract. His spending on travel has been closely scrutinized and has prompted changes in the airport's travel policies.I

IBJ reported March 10 that Clark and two other airport officials had spent more than $67,000 on travel to locations such as Brazil, Morocco and Switzerland. Clark said many of the trips were related to his role with an industry trade group.

Clark left his job in Indianapolis with a year’s salary as severance—$270,000—plus remaining unpaid vacation days.

He said his company is being paid a retainer of $5,000 per month to do work at Gary. He said he quoted a billable rate of $350 per hour when asked and he believes that's why it was included in the contract.

Clark led the Jacksonville, Fla., airport before moving to Indianapolis in 2009.

Clark said his three-person firm already is at work identifying business opportunities for the Gary airport.

"My forte in this business has been growing businesses and business development at airports," Clark said.

Freeman-Wilson said Gary was fortunate to get someone with experience working directly with major airlines, overseeing airports and supervising expansions.

"He's being hired primarily to do business development there," Freeman-Wilson said. "But also to lend his vast expertise as one that has basically built out an airport."

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