God Save the Airport Authority Chairman

Airport Authority Chairman Bob Watkins reimburses organization for Chargers tickets

By Eric S. Page
|  Wednesday, Sep 9, 2009  |  Updated 11:15 AM PDT
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$12B Airport Plan Calls for Transit Hub

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"The public can trust us because we're not flagrantly violating the rules," Airport Authority chairman Bob Watkins told the voiceofsandiego.org.

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The boss at the Airport Authority is back in hot water, courtesy of a follow-up report about travel expenses.

Last year, authority chairman Bob  Watkins flew to London on a trade mission when the Chargers played the Saints, paying $5,500 per ticket for business-class air travel instead of $950 for economy, the voiceofsandiego.org reported in August. Watkins told the VOSD that he and a member of Parliament, who was his guest at the game, each sat in a $1,200 seat on the 5-yard line.

"The tickets that I got were for myself and a member of Parliament over there who essentially is involved in airport security," Watkins told the voiceofsandiego.org during an interview of its initial report.

However, the authority chairmen wasn't watching the game with an MP, the voiceofsandiego reported. Instead, Watkins was sitting with James R. Burrows, then the CEO of Litelogic, "a British company that puts LED advertisements on buses and that had interest in doing business in San Diego," an authority spokeswoman told the voiceofsandiego. She also said that a member of Parliament had been invited to the game but cancelled.

On Tuesday, the Web site reported that the authority spokeswoman said Watkins reimbursed the organization $1,200 for the Chargers-Saints game last October.

"It should be noted that the activity in question was within the policy and procedures of the authority, however for the best interests of the authority I again offer my reimbursement check," Watkins said in a note to Thella Bowens, the airport authority president.

The voiceofsandiego.org reported in its initial investigation that members of the Airport Authority board and senior staff were still taking high-priced flights, staying in expensive hotels and eating in the finest restaurants two years after the issue first came to light in a similar report by the San Diego Union-Tribune. The paper's investigation prompted internal reform at the agency, but the voiceofsandiego.org reported that the new practices were not always adhered to.

"Employees have repeatedly been reimbursed for expenses that aren't allowed under the new policy.... When the authority's employees and board members travel, they still eat at the finest restaurants and stay at the finest hotels. They have booked last-minute flights to long-planned conferences, adding hundreds in costs," reported the voiceofsandiego.org.

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