Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

JAA Appoints Interim CEO, Gets Federal Money

Jim McCollum, a former BellSouth Regional Director and current member of the JAA Board, has been appointed by the JAA Board to serve as Interim CEO until a permanent replacement has been hired.  JAA also announced that they have “approved the establishment of a Cecil Field Development Policy that allows the JAA to offer special considerations, such as lease concessions and incentives, to help stimulate development at Cecil Field during this difficult economic environment. The policy will be in place for five years or until such time the U.S. economy and financial markets have demonstrated a trend of recovery – whichever comes first.”

In addition, the Board announced that they will appropriate $1.5 million dollars in order to receive matching federal stimulus grants of $4.6 million for airport improvement projects at Jacksonville International Airport.  The specific projects have yet to be identified, but JAA management will report to the Board before awarding any contracts.

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Indy Newspaper Takes Swipe at John Clark

Another Indianapolis newspaper has published a rather critical story on former JIA Executive Director John Clark.  

Airport Chief Executive John D. Clark III earned a reputation in Jacksonville, Fla., for being an anti-union spendthrift, cutting jobs while treating himself lavishly as he traveled the world.

He made separate business trips to Paris, London, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Cairo — four continents, all paid for by the airport and all within one year.

He once authorized $10,000 for a limousine in Paris for an airport board member and a lawyer, and ended up apologizing for it.

All of that on top of a $241,500 salary as Jacksonville airport chief executive officer, plus a car allowance and a private club membership.

But if such spending raised eyebrows in Jacksonville, airport officials in Indianapolis figure it comes with the job. They are poised to open up their wallets and formally name Clark the next executive director and CEO of Indianapolis International Airport at Friday’s Indianapolis Airport Authority Board meeting.

The full story can be found here.

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Indy Media Takes on John Clark

John Clark’s “baggage”, as the Indianapolis Business Journal put it, “has arrived before him.”  Jacksonville City Councilman Bill Bishop has a priceless quote in the article that can be found here.

The man nominated to be CEO of the Indianapolis Airport Authority has been a polarizing figure in Jacksonville, where he’s been CEO of the Florida city’s aviation authority since 2001. 

During that time, Clark amassed a long list of critics — ranging from the city council to airport police to neighborhood residents in the path of a proposed runway extension. 

Jacksonville’s alternative newspaper, Folioweekly, in November published a scathing article about Clark, painting him as a big spender with little regard for authority.

Recently named chairman of the North American division of Airports Council International, Clark has flown around the world for ACI conferences, at the airport authority’s expense. 

According to the newspaper, Clark has flown to Shanghai, Brussels, Frankfort, Paris, London and Buenos Aires in the past two years, racking up expensive hotel bills, including a $726-per-night room in Buenos Aires and $582 room in Paris. His trip to the London Air Show cost the authority $10,491 and his trip to Shanghai cost $11,304.

“I’ve said on several occasions I’d be happy to write him a letter of recommendation, if it got him a job somewhere else,” said Bill Bishop, a Jacksonville architect and city councilman who helped stop Clark and the Jacksonville Aviation Authority from extending a runway into a residential area.
Hours after the Indianapolis Airport Authority announced Clark’s selection on March 10, bloggers who had “Googled” his name starting having a field day questioning the authority’s CEO pick.

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Adios, John Clark

We’ve discussed his high salary and benefits here and here, and we’ve finally found another city that wants him. John Clark is headed to Indianapolis. Apparently, being the highest paid airport executive in Florida and Georgia wasn’t quite enough. Let’s hope JAA’s Board can negotiate a more reasonable salary and benefits package for the next Executive Director.

He can now travel to Hong Kong on someone else’s dime.

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JIA Slower, Clark to cut salary?

Jacksonville “International” [We don’t have any international flights, folks] Airport has announced that traffic was down 5% in 2008. According to the Business Journal, cargo also decreased 6% and available seats decreased by 14%. What has increased at Jacksonville Regional Airport? Executive Director John Clark’s salary.

In contrast to a 5% decrease in traffic, 6% decrease in cargo and 14% fewer available seats, John Clark earned his annual 5% pay increase to top off his base salary of $241,000. Oh, and let’s not forget his $72,300 bonus; his $10,200 car allowance; his $9,000 cell phone allowance; his $15,000 retirement contribution and his membership at his choice of the University Club or the River Club.

It’s always interesting when an executive’s salary continues to increase while his business is declining, particularly when the executive is laying off employees. We are still awaiting word on whether or not Mr. Clark’s salary will be decreased to reflect the downturn in his business. (Of course, a decrease shouldn’t hurt him too much. His salary remains higher than his counterparts at true international airports such as Miami, Tampa, Orlando or Atlanta.) Somehow I don’t expect the answer to be coming anytime soon…

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Jax Chamber to City Council: Don’t Watch Taxpayer Dollars Too Closely!

According to the Daily Record, the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce is opposed to efforts to rein in the City’s independent agencies, which are run by un-elected Boards of Directors. The Chamber is calling on the Council—the City’s elected body charged by the taxpayers with administering tax revenue—to stay out of the agencies operations.

The Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce opposes two bills that would allow City Council to partially regulate what the city’s independent agencies can and can’t do. In a letter to Council President Ronnie Fussell, Chamber Chair Ron Autrey says the consolidated nature of Jacksonville’s government was established to assure the independence of those agencies. “The Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce urges you to vote no” on the two bills, wrote Autrey.


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Cashin’ In at the JAA

Folio Weekly has a top-notch expose out this week on John Clark, the head of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.  Serving as the head of an independent agency is quite lucrative—at least in Jacksonville, Florida.  Mr. Clark’s compensation ranks him as the highest paid airport executive in the state, even higher than Atlanta’s airport.  (And, in case you are wondering, Jacksonville comes nowhere close to competing with Atlanta, Miami or Orlando in terms of volume.)  According to Folio, Mr. Clark’s compensation includes:

  • Base salary of $241,000 (with an automatic 5% annual increase through 2012)
  • $850 monthly car allowance
  • $750 monthly cell phone/business expense allowance ($50 annual increase)
  • 100% coverage of health insurance premiums
  • Membership dues to the River Club or University Club
  • $15,000 annual retirement contribution
  • Business travel expenses, as needed, which included such things as $10,491 to attend this year’s London Air Show and $11,304 to attend an Airports Council International meeting in Shanghai

Folio pointed out that Mr. Clark recently ordered staff cuts at JIA, presumably to preserve the 30% operating margin that triggers an automatic 30% bonus payout to him ($72,300).  The City Council, particularly Clay Yarborough, Glorious Johnson and Bill Bishop, appear to have taken an interest in reigning in JAA by attempting to restrict his dictatorial powers to move around his budget.  With JAA operating at such impressive margins, perhaps its time for it to start contributing to the City’s general fund, much like another independent authority (the JEA) does…

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