File photo of CVG airport; Michael Benedic | WCPO
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The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport retains firm while under investigation by Ky.

CVG board hires auditor to audit auditor

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HEBRON, Ky. – The Kenton County Airport Board, which oversees The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, selected an accounting firm to audit the currently underway state audit.

In light of Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen’s special investigation into the Kenton County Airport Board’s spending, the board opted to retain outside consultant Clark Schaefer Hackett, a CPA firm in Cincinnati.

That consulting firm will perform an audit comparable to Edelen’s special investigation into the board’s spending — and will cost the board a price tag not to exceed $25,000, said board spokesman Pat Crowley.

Crowley said the board is concerned Edelen’s office is operating with “erroneous information."

For example, Crowley said the $20,000 trip to Italy by board President James Huff and board VP Larry Savage was a $10,000 cost to the board. He added that both Huff and Savage reimbursed the board for $10,000 of the total tab — a cost Edelen has said, “…certainly raises the question on whether those are legitimate expenses or not.”

“This is just checks and balances,” said Crowley.

“The board doesn’t believe these expenses are out of line,” he continued. “We just want to make sure the accurate information is out there.”

Clark Schaefer Hackett will look at similar information as Edelen, but it’s not clear whether that will occur simultaneously to the state’s investigation or once recommendations have been made.

It’s not uncommon for an agency to hire a consultant after the state auditor’s work is completed to assist in implementation or corrective actions as a result of findings and recommendations. But Edelen’s spokeswoman Stephenie Hoelscher said it's not usually done simultaneously -- especially when they have internal and external auditors already in place.

Currently, the airport board has a contract with an outside auditing agency, Blue & Co., LLC. According to their contract, which started in 2007 and runs through Dec. 31, 2016, the board pays the firm a fixed fee of $98,800 annually.

The airport board also has two internal auditors on its staff. Their combined salary is $166,617 annually.

A similar investigation by the state auditor prompted the Lexington Blue Grass Airport to do the same thing in 2009, costing more than $40,000.

That consultant performed an audit simultaneously to his special investigation, Hoelscher said. The end result reflected the same recommendations as those of the state auditor’s report.

She insisted the board's audit is unnecessary at this point.

“Neither our examination or a third auditor would’ve been needed had they initially heeded the advice of their CPA firm,” Hoelscher said. “Our experience is that those who welcome the work of our professional auditors are more serious about organizational improvement than those who do not.”

The decision to hire an “independent eye” on the board’s spending came after Edelen’s decision to conduct a special examination into the spending and travel by the board.

Edelen said his office will focus on board polices and the airport's governance structures and look into the collective spending and travel by the CVG board and administrators.

"CVG serves a metropolitan area of 2.1 million people and is critical to the economic vitality of Northern Kentucky and Cincinnati,” Edelen said. “Making sure this asset is run efficiently and effectively is a necessary step toward attracting businesses, adding jobs and growing the economy of the region.”

The airport generates more than 16,000 direct and direct jobs and $2.7 billion in spending by CVG operations, construction and visitors annually.

It pumps $92 million a year into Ohio and Kentucky coffers, he said.

“The airport is at an important crossroads in its 65-year history. My goal is to provide a roadmap for improving operations and fostering growth,” Edelen said.

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