Thursday, October 01, 2009

Airport Board acts in response to Bob Watkins' scandal

See all Bob Watkins' posts.

Airport Board Travel Expenses Capped

Voice of San Diego
October 1, 2009

The Airport Authority today approved limits on board members' meal and hotel expenses while traveling, but delayed any decisions about other proposed travel policy changes proposed after our August story revealed existing policies weren't always followed.

The authority's 6-1 vote (San Marcos Mayor Jim Desmond voted no) will cap reimbursements for board members according to federal standards that allow a maximum $71 reimbursement for meals each day and a maximum $340 for hotel stays.

The board didn't adopt them for employees, deferring discussion on that and other expense policy changes to its November meeting.

Board members had mixed opinions about those other changes. Robert Gleason said he wanted to see per-diem limits for employees if they were being adopted for the board. He said the board should eliminate premium travel -- any flights more expensive than coach class.

"I think it is difficult to explain and difficult to justify to the traveling public," Gleason said.

Three other board members disagreed: Tom Smisek, Desmond and Bruce Boland. Desmond said business class travel on international flights is important to keep employees fresh and rested for meetings once they arrive.
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"The question comes back: are you willing to defend that from a public scrutiny perspective?" asked Bob Watkins, the authority chairman.

"Are we running it or is the media running the ship?" Desmond replied.


Mayor mum as more problems surface for airport chairman
Watkins failed to pay city taxes at two businesses based at townhouse
By Steve Schmidt
SAN DIEGO Union-Tribune Staff Writer
September 30, 2009

Airport authority Chairman Bob Watkins has had a number of irregular dealings, including questionable expense accounts, incomplete state forms and apparent violations of city zoning laws.

What's changing: Watkins also failed to pay city taxes on at least two of the seven businesses that list his townhouse near Lindbergh Field as an address...

The San Diego City Treasurer's Office yesterday said airport board Chairman Bob Watkins failed to pay city taxes on two businesses, and that it plans to investigate two more.

The city Planning Department also said it will review possible zoning violations at Watkins' Brant Street townhouse, where he and an associate run seven businesses, according to state records.

The irregularities are the latest to dog Watkins, but the office of Mayor Jerry Sanders was mum yesterday on Watkins' status as the head of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority.

After meeting with Watkins last week, Sanders promised to monitor the chairman's performance in light of revelations about his travel expenses at the authority and his failure to fully disclose his business interests on state forms.

City officials yesterday said Watkins ran his executive recruitment firm out of the townhouse for two years without a valid business license. They said another Watkins' business, Aztec Ventures, is a year behind in paying its business fees...

When asked about his business license Monday, Watkins said he has one but would not say when it was renewed or what date it has on it.

Yesterday, city business tax manager Ricardo Ramos said a representative of Watkins' R.J. Watkins & Co. renewed the company's business license last week, a day after The San Diego Union-Tribune  began asking questions about the property.

The reinstatement came two years after the city started sending repeated notices to Watkins about the need to pay his annual $34 license-renewal fee.

“Multiple notices were sent, and we never heard back,” Ramos said.

All active, for-profit businesses in the city are required to have a license.

Ramos said Aztec Ventures, an investment firm in Watkins' name at the same address, owes the city at least one year of business tax. It remained in arrears as of yesterday, Ramos said.

Ramos said the city is also reviewing the situation for two other Watkins businesses that use the address — WWW Ventures and Tollbridge Partners.

Watkins considers the businesses inactive and has said they do not require a license. Ramos said companies that are in operation for six days or less a year are not required to pay a business-license tax.

Three companies run by longtime Watkins associate Andy Strasberg are also listed at 2515 Brant St., according to state records. Strasberg said Monday that Watkins asked him to move out when questions arose about the property.

Home businesses are allowed only if the owner lives there, and no employees are allowed on site. Watkins, 66, lives in Alpine. He acknowledged last week that he has a part-time employee at the townhouse.

On a related matter, city officials yesterday said they plan to investigate whether Watkins is complying with zoning laws at the townhouse.

At least seven businesses list the townhouse as their address, in a neighborhood zoned for residential use...

# Records show 7 companies located at Watkins' townhouse
# Head of airport board says he'll fix business matters
# A mayoral rebuke for Watkins
# Airport board leader may be breaking law

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