CVG Airport Board Reform Bill Clears House Committee, Simpson Votes No
A bill that would reform the Kenton County Airport Board and its governance of the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) Board and i co-sponsored by all but one state representative from Northern Kentucky, cleared the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday without that lone state representative's vote.
Rep. Arnold Simpson (D-Covington) opposed House Bill 208, citing a lack of financial compensation to Kenton County by other government bodies that would be granted access to appointing voting members to the board. Currently, the Kenton County Airport Board is made up of seven voting members all appointed by the Kenton County Judge-Executive, and an eleven-member advisory committee that has no voting power and features members appointed by surrounding counties and the governor.
House Bill 208, sponsored by Rep. Diane St. Onge (R-Lakeside Park) would eliminate the advisory committee and create a board of 13 voting members, 8 appointed by Kenton County, 2 by Boone County, 1 by Campbell and Grant Counties, and one by the governor. All county appointments would require full approval of their respective Fiscal Courts.
The bill developed out of a scathing audit conducted by Auditor Adam Edelen's office following a series of reports in the Cincinnati Enquirer that detailed unusual amounts of money spent by members of the board on travel expenses and food and drink at meetings. Though the money was not from tax dollars, the issue was at the center of last year's Republican primary when then-Judge-Executive Steve Arlinghaus was defeated by then-Commissioner Kris Knochelmann. Arlinghaus was named throughout the audit for his travel expenses and implications of nepotism when his daughter was hired at the airport. Three members of the board, including the chair and vice chair, resigned.
Edelen and Knochelmann joined St. Onge in testifying on behalf of the bill before the Transportation Committee on Tuesday afternoon. "The economic development side of things can't be overstated," Knochelmann said. "The airport is going through a transition and some of the opportunities with adding airlines and flights have been the efforts of a very well-run staff and one of the things we are concerned with when we put a new board in place is you always run the risk of a staff not being able to do its job. We want to make sure that the staff moving forward is given the right tools to set a vision for the airport."
"We're not saying this structure is going to solve the airfare problem or number of flights, but we are set up for greater success than the current set-up allows."