The high flying Little Rock National Airport 

High executive pay, foreign travel and $272,000 in credit card charges per year.

If it's January, it must be Hawaii.

Travel and expense records of Little Rock National Airport executives over the past two years show nearly monthly trips to national and international spots. Hawaii is yearly, for the annual American Association of Aviation Executives Airport Aviation Issues conference. It was followed this year by trips to Chicago and Fort Lauderdale in February. Savannah and San Diego in April, Washington and Atlanta in May, Brussels in June, Prague in October. Last year, it was Paris. Montreal. Dallas. Las Vegas. Miami.

It's a high-flying job, being the executive director and deputy director of an airport, and commissioners and others — including Mayor Mark Stodola — sometimes go along for the ride.

An Arkansas Times examination of records produced under Freedom of Information Act requests showed top airport officials rang up more than $272,000 in credit card expenses in 12 months time, more than $20,000 per month.

The charges were primarily for travel, lodging and dining expenses, but with some office supplies and other charges, such as car washes and tires for the top officials' airport-supplied cars.

Airport Executive Director Ronald Mathieu and Deputy Director Bryan Malinowski charged $89,949 to an airport Business Platinum American Express card issued them to pay for travel, meals and other items, between Oct. 25, 2009, and Oct. 29, 2010, an accounts payable history report shows. That works out to almost $3,800 per month per man in expenses, or better than $100 per day.

But that's not all their charges. The airport issues a Visa bank card to its administrative team; charges since Nov. 4, 2009, by Mathieu, Malinowski, finance director Carol Snay, operations director Charles Jones, human resources director Allen Williams and purchasing manager Elwin Jones totaled $182,833.85, or more than $15,000 per month. The card pays for miscellaneous expenses, including meals and fees. Of that total, charges by Mathieu and Malinowski account for $30,161, putting expenses by the top two leaders alone at $10,000 per month. The March 2010 statement includes a gift of $5,000 to the private University of Arkansas Foundation by Mathieu. The state Constitution prohibits government agencies from giving money to private corporations.

The expenses produce a mountain of individual receipts. They are presumably reviewed internally for payment and the airport itself pays for an annual audit, but there is apparently no independent audit of the quasi-independent city agency, such as state agencies, cities and school districts are subjected to by the legislature.

Little Rock National Airport, on city property and overseen by a city-appointed commission, is like other independently funded entities, including the Advertising and Promotion Commission, the Wastewater Utility, and the Central Arkansas Library System. Its total operating income, from gate rentals, landing fees, land leases and the like, is $27.1 million. But it operates more like a private business, paying top executive Mathieu $180,793 (plus an $8,200 bonus in 2009), more than the governor, Little Rock and North Little Rock's mayors, the State Police director, Little Rock's police and fire chiefs. Mathieu drives a 2011 Honda Pilot, a $41,558 vehicle purchased for him weeks ago as part of his contract. Deputy Director Malinowski ($147,465) and Finance Director Carol Snay ($129,794) are paid more than all those officials with the exception of Little Rock's mayor. Malinowski is also provided a car; he drives a $36,562 Toyota Highlander hybrid.

Only Little Rock's mayor and police chief earn more than the airport's director of properties, planning and development Tom Clarke, who is paid $122,424. All of the other four directors are paid $100,000 and up (and two received bonuses of about $3,400), with the exception of media and marketing director Tiajuana Williams, whose salary is $96,174.26, around $1,000 shy of North Little Mayor Pat Hays' $97,517.


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