Commission slaps Mathieu's wrist | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Commission slaps Mathieu's wrist

Posted By on Tue, Nov 16, 2010 at 9:24 AM

RON MATHIEU: At todays meeting
The Little Rock National Airport Commission meeting began at 8:30 a.m. with profuse apologies from director Ron Mathieu for the $40,000 Little Rock Christian football field sponsorship, including an apology for refusing to talk to the Arkansas Times. We'll see how sincere that is. He defended the deal unequivocally Friday and termed our reporting "untruths," you might recall. Now he admits he misled airport commissioners about the expense and let everyone else down, too.

The commission went into executive session about 8:45 a.m.

About 35 minutes later, Mathieu was called into the closed session.

The commission returned about 9:42 a.m. with a wrist slap. The Commission accepted Mathieu's apology but said he made a serious error in judgment. Chairman Bob East also said Mathieu erred in how he responded to press inquiries.

If this action now means, "Let's all move along folks. Nothing else to see here," they're wrong from our point of view. You still have an egregious expenditure of public money, a dishonest response to a direct question from the airport commission and dishonest statements to the Arkansas Times and other media about what happened and what we reported.

HOWEVER: East announced that the airport also will attempt to recover the $40,000 and it will look into other airport expenditures. That's something, though an independent audit would be preferable. Commissioner Tom Schueck was appointed to lead a review of policies and expenditures — "everything we're doing." He said the commission likely would "tighten" the policy on executive spending, where Mathie now has unreviewed discretion over expenditures up to $50,000.

As I said, we'll see if Mathieu is more forthcoming with the press. Among questions pending with Tiajuana Williams, the putative media manager who doesn't talk to the Arkansas Times:

1) Her pay (She still won't say, but the airport lawyer now says the figure is $96,174 a year.)
2) Cost of today's groundbreaking party
3) Whether she has sole authority to make $40,000 expenditures. And, if she does not, who approved the contract that she's taken responsibility for. (Some clarification: Though Williams has stoutly defended this marketing idea, Deputy Director Bryan Malinowski actually signed the contract. I'm still unclear on whether that means he, too, has discretionary spending authority like Mathieu. Any way you slice it, a subordinate approved a deal brought to them by the boss.)
4) Specifics on the "innuendo and untruths" Mathieu alleged in his statement about our story last week. And if there are none, why did the statement say there were?
5) Why a decision was made to give an interview to the daily newspaper and not us.

There's more, but that's a start.

Mathieu announced he'd be taking vacation from tomorrow through Nov. 29.

Leslie Newell Peacock provided Twitter updates.

Here's video from Brian Chilson

UPDATE: More video here of East announcing the decision. And here's video of Mathieu taking questions. Also: I got a comment from Mayor Stodola. He says the money will be repaid, by Mathieu if necessary, and that he'll be "sanctioned" by Commission in his evaluation.

Max—-just read your email, been working on budget. I understand Mathieu has apologized to Commission, Schueck, Board of Directors, airport staff, the press and the Ar.Times. A serious error in judgment on several fronts which you have mentioned. He needs to get the money returned from the school or be prepared to pay it himself. I understand that is going to be accomplished; and he needs to be sanctioned by the Commission in some serious and substantial form. I understand from the Commission that is going to happen re his evaluation which is scheduled.

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