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Ethics commission to be consulted

November 6, 2012
By LINDA HARRIS - Staff writer ( , The Herald-Star

WINTERSVILLE - The Jefferson County Airport Authority will ask Ohio's Ethics Commission how it should handle its chairman's plan to open an aviation-related business.

At Monday's meeting, Airport Authority President Mike Menzel notified the board in writing that he plans to go into business with another pilot, Phillip Bender, adding that he would recuse himself from future decisions that might impact that business.

In response to questions from other board members, Menzel said he and Bender would offer rentals, flight instruction, scenic tours and management services, "anything that will make money," sparking a lengthy discussion of the specificity of their plans as well as the board's responsibility.

Article Photos

Linda Harris
ANSWERING QUESTIONS — The Jefferson County Airport Authority’s Earl Muenze, left, listened as President Mike Menzel answered questions about his plan to partner in an aviation-related business during Monday’s airport authority meeting.

The board's legal adviser, Charles Edwards, said the fact that Menzel is a member of the board can't be ignored, and suggested that before doing anything the board contact the ethics commission "and tell them what (Menzel and Bender) propose to do." He also suggested that Menzel and Bender develop a definitive business plan.

"I certainly don't want to discourage entrepreneurship or business activity," airport authority Vice President Cathy Cucarese said, asking that the inquiry be handled "in the most expeditious manner possible."

"We need to make sure we, as a board, are doing what we're supposed to be doing," board member Sue Hershey added.

The board, meanwhile, also is asking the Jefferson County commissioners to clarify procedures to be followed with the runway extension project.

The airport authority previously had designated a committee to review qualifications from engineering firms interested in representing the board, and the committee reviewed and ranked the firms.

"In the meantime, the commissioners decided to do a runway committee to oversee construction," board secretary Gary Folden said, adding the county committee had "met and decided they also like the top three" selected by the airport authority's engineering review committee and had him check the references of all three firms.

The commissioner-appointed runway committee consists of Geary Bates, Phillip Bender Sr., James Branagan, Brandon Reese, Commissioner Tom Gentile and Menzel.

"The reason the commission may be getting more heavily involved is that it's not an FAA project, it involves grants and funding all in their name, and they're putting $500,000 in," Folden added.

Board members, meanwhile, also noted security controls have been implemented to monitor after-hours sale of aviation fuel and instructed Folden to make sure all pilots based at the airpark are notified by registered letter that the high-octane gas is, by law, solely for aviation use.

Folden said state officials had told him it's "illegal to sell it for anything but aviation."

At the county commission's request, the board also is establishing a written policy for based pilot fuel discounts.

The board also discussed plans for an indoor display case featuring a flight suit as well as flags presented to Experimental Aircraft Association 859 by Capt. Kevin DiFalco of the 510 th Expidentiary Fighter Squadron serving in Afghanistan and Pat Sine, a B-1 weapons officer, also serving in the Middle East.

The board retired into executive session to discuss possible litigation.

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