Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Long Beach Airport commissioner resigns amid conflict of interest investigation
By Courtney Tompkins
The Long Beach (CA) Press Telegram
Long Beach Airport
A Long Beach Airport advisory commissioner has resigned from his post as vice chair amid an investigation by the California Fair Political Practices Commission over potential conflict of interest violations.
The commissioner in question, Glenn Ray, owns Million Air North, Inc., a company at Long Beach Airport that city officials were looking to sign a $807,000 contract with late last year.
After news of the pending investigation surfaced in December, the City Council postponed a vote on the contract, which would have authorized a five-year lease agreement for some 6,000 square feet of office space for city airport workers.
City Attorney Charles Parkin said Ray submitted a resignation letter to the mayor’s office on Friday. In it, he said his time on the airport advisory commission was a “tremendous experience” but said he needed to focus his time on “other goals and objectives.”
Ray’s term was set to end in 2018. Mayor Robert Garcia’s chief of staff, Mark Taylor, said Garcia would work on finding a replacement in the near future.
Ray did not return calls for comment on Monday. Parkin said there was no indication in Ray’s letter that his resignation was related to the investigation.
The city attorney’s office maintains there was no legal conflict of interest violation with the proposed lease agreement because the advisory body did not consider the contract, nor did the commissioners review it.
Still, the city attorney’s office sought advice from the FPPC on the issue.
In a Dec. 28 response letter, FPPC general counsel Hyla P. Wagner told Long Beach officials the state agency often declines to give advice when the “same or very similar issues are under consideration by the enforcement division.”
“Please note that our decision is not a determination of the questions posed in your request,” she wrote.
FPPC spokesman Jay Wierenga confirmed on Monday that the investigation is still ongoing, but declined to comment further.
The concerns surfaced late last year after resident Laurie Smith began looking into business ties some commissioners had with the Long Beach Airport.
Smith learned Ray is on the board of directors for the Long Beach Airport Association, a lobbying group whose mission is to “advance aviation, economic growth and business diversity.” JetBlue’s general manager Lou Anthony also sits on the board with Ray, and commission chair Karen Sherman is a dues-paying member.
Smith shed light on the issue during a time when local officials were considering a proposal (spearheaded by JetBlue Airways) to build a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility at the airport, which would have initiated international travel to Mexico and Central America.
The City Council denied the proposal in January, but the commission may ask elected representatives to reconsider the issue this week.
On the Airport Advisory Commission agenda for Thursday is an item that, if approved, would recommend the City Council revisit the proposal.
Parkin said, legally, the commission can discuss the issue, as it is airport related, and may write a letter asking the council to revisit the decision but, he said, “the question is whether council wants to take that up or not.”
Given the status of the FPPC investigation, Sherman has said she would recuse herself from the vote on Thursday.