Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Onejet Conflict Airport Authority Members Must Not Be Investors

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Onejet Conflict Airport Authority Members Must Not Be Investors

Article excerpt

Service on a public board requires certain sacrifices. For those serving on the Allegheny County Airport Authority, that should mean refraining from business relationships with airlines or companies having contracts at Pittsburgh International Airport or the smaller county airport in West Mifflin.

As the Post-Gazette's Mark Belko reported, two of the board's nine members, Robert Lewis and Jan Rea, are investors in OneJet. That's the airline the authority now is suing for accepting $1 million in incentives but providing fewer flights than promised. On Wednesday, the airline announced it is suspending all flights across its system while it completes an"operational transition."

Jeffrey Letwin, the authority solicitor, said the two are in compliance with state and authority ethics policies and he sees nothing wrong with the investments as long as they recuse themselves from votes on OneJet. Asked about Mr. Lewis' investment, which came to light before Ms. Rea's, county Executive Rich Fitzerald also said he is OK with it.

But that kind of misguided thinking helps to explain Pennsylvania's reputation for ethics-deficient government.

With two airports to run, a staff of about 450 to govern, an operating budget of $108 million to oversee and a billion-dollar modernization campaign at Pittsburgh International to monitor, the board has a full agenda requiring the input of all nine voices. Decisions about airlines serving the airport are especially important and shouldn't be left to a subset of members because one or two decided to tweak their personal business portfolios.

Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner called Wednesday for the resignation of Mr. Lewis and Ms. Rea, noting that it's important for the authority to take a stand against self-dealing and pay-to-play at the start of the big-scale modernization project. …

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