Hey, Genesee County taxpayers: You just lost $150,000, got nothing for it, and the governmental body that gave it away isn’t going to tell you why.
The board in question is the Bishop Airport Authority, which most people don’t even know is a city/county board, but it is, which of course means that the money they spend is, ultimately, yours.
And the person receiving the board’s largesse is former airport director Craig Williams, who “resigned” recently to “pursue other professional opportunities.”
What does that actually mean? Well, an article by the Flint Journal’s Ron Fonger, said this: “Under his leadership, Bishop struggled to buck the industry trends of losses in service and passenger traffic at small airports, hitting a low point in 2018 as departures dropped below 400,000 for the first time in 16 years in Flint.”
So draw your own conclusions.
Why should you care?
Well, first there’s the $150,000. That’s a relative pittance but it’s also $150,000 that could have been used to, say, fill a few potholes or feed some hungry kids. How you spend your pennies is how you’ll spend your dollars, right? And it’s not as if Flint or Genesee County are swimming in money.
The more troubling aspect is the secrecy. Board Chairman Winfield Cooper “declined” to discuss the agreement, which included a “no disparagement” clause saying “neither party shall make derogatory or negative comments about the other or its agents” and, as Fonger’s article indicates, “a section on confidentiality in which both the airport and Williams agree not to communicate or disclose the contents of the details of his departure.”
That, frankly, sucks. The board, I’m sure, feels like $150,000 is a small price to pay for a clean, no hassle separation, one that won’t cause future candidates for that job or other county jobs to think twice or cost them legal fees.
I get it. But if those are the reasons for the agreement, say so. Taxpayers are big boys and girls. They can handle the truth. They might even applaud the move as prudent.
But as is, there’s a much bigger cost to government operating behind closed doors: Public trust.
Secrecy kills it. And, once killed, is awful hard to regain, especially in a county where government has let people down over and over again.
And that’s why you should care.