HEBRON, Ky. – The Kenton County Airport Board got a stern talk from Kenton County Judge Executive Steve Arlinghaus at Monday night’s regular board meeting.
Arlinghaus told board members to cut luxury expenses, insisted they end the negativity and reassured them that Cincinnati will never control the board.
The typed letter from Arlinghaus, which he read aloud to the board Monday, stems from reports of excessive spending by some board members -- but it didn't stop there.
It was the dig at Cincinnati that didn’t sit too well with O’dell Owens, president of Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, and a non-voting board member. He is the sole board member appointed by the City of Cincinnati.
“I’m not going to let anyone put Cincinnati down,” said Owens. “No one messes with my city.”
“Some people in our community have agendas to tear down the board or to give control of the airport to Cincinnati,” Arlinghaus read from his letter to the board.
“Please do not be distracted by these efforts. I am very proud of the Cincinnati representatives I have appointed to the board and I will continue to take a regional approach when making future appointments to the board. But please know that, as long as I am Judge-Executive, I will do all in my power to oppose any efforts to wrest control of the airport from Kenton County. We cannot allow these personal and political agendas to succeed,” Arlinghaus continued.
But before Owens could give his full two cents to Arlinghaus — who appoints the board members who serve on the executive committee and are the sole voters on the board — the judge executive walked out of the meeting.
“It’s on between you and I, Steve. Why bring up Cincinnati? It’s a cheap shot,” Owens said. “And I’m not going to allow it.”
“Cincinnati has never tried taking over this airport… And I resent that. I have never advocated that this airport should be under the control of Cincinnati,” said the board’s Queen City representative. “It’s on. It is on.”
David Siebenburgen, a private investor, who is new to the board, spoke up, saying the letter wasn’t exactly the warmest invitation to Cincinnati.
“Seeing something like this, this is not a very inviting comment. And I guess I would suggest that if a future board member from Cincinnati were to see something like this, that might not work for the good of the airport,” said Siebenburgen, who is newly appointed by the Hamilton County Commission.
In the letter, Arlinghaus detailed a list of changes for board members when it comes to travel, alcohol and meals.
Those changes stem from reports of excessive spending in all three reports that have since prompted the Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen to take a closer look, investigating all expenses through the board.
From this point forward, Arlinghaus told the board, they must each pay for their own alcohol at events. He added there will no longer be food served at board meetings, and when they travel, board members have to fly coach instead of first class.
He also advised board members to attend as many educational opportunities as possible, through conventions and training sessions, as well as stay on task, allowing pending investigations to play out so that the airport can get back on track.
“Serving on any public body brings scrutiny and accountability, which is healthy and appropriate,” said Arlinghaus. “I would ask that the Board and staff fully support and assist, as requested, the inquiries and investigations the Board has approved and that of the State Auditor is undertaking so that we can expedite these inquiries as quickly as possible. It is absolutely imperative that no one pre-judge any matter until these inquiries are complete. Let’s have the facts come out first and not rush judgment.”
“The sooner these processes are completed, the sooner we can get back to focusing on the responsibilities for which each of you have been charged regarding the oversight and operation of CVG,” he told the board.
The letter from Arlinghaus comes to the board in light of the documented plans to oust the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport CEO Candace McGraw.
That document detailed talking points on how some board members planned to remove McGraw from office, including what they would say to the public regarding her termination or forced resignation.
It was what spurred Arlinghaus to confront the board Monday night—telling them to lay off the negativity and work together.
“Serving on any public body comes with scrutiny, and occasionally, a few slings and arrows. That can be uncomfortable but it is part of the assignment. I ask that each of you stay focused on the business at hand—making CVG the very best airport it can be,” said Arlinghaus in his letter.
After the meeting wrapped up, Arlinghaus released the following statement:
“I went to the board meeting tonight to encourage every board member to work together as a team. Board members have a responsibility to do that. I was surprised and disappointed that the Cincinnati appointee would criticize me for appointing someone from Procter and Gamble to the board. I am going to continue to take a regional approach to the airport board, and I will tell you this–we will never cede control of this airport to Cincinnati as long as I have anything to say about it.”
While the letter comes just after some board members’ plans to dismiss McGraw from her seat were revealed, the board did not discuss her future with the airport during Monday’s meeting.