You remember the Little Rock National Airport don’t you?
Where director Ron Mathieu sent $40,000 to pay for a football field carpet at his kid’s private school? (The airport got a sideline logo in return.) Where lunches and clothing were routinely charged to the public’s tab, along with first-class air tickets, fine meals for swells in Paris, limo rides and private jet transport. All this while the passenger load has been on a 10-year decline. Mathieu lied to the Airport Commission when first questioned about the $40,000 expenditure, covered up as advertising. The Commission didn’t fire Mathieu after we exposed his double-talk, but it withheld a pay raise for him this year. He has to scrape by on $180,000, the second highest salary of any employee in the city of Little Rock.
And what about the rest of the airport staff, such as public relations chief Tiajuana Williams, who initially responded to our story about Mathieu’s private school expenditure by saying it was wrong (a lie, by my lights) and then covered up for her boss’s expenditure by saying it was her responsibility and part of an Internet marketing campaign?
The good times roll, baby.
Little Rock National Airport — sitting on a swelling pot of money thanks to exorbitant increases in parking and rental fees and huge fee assessments on airlines (which merely pass the costs along to air passengers) — is unlike every other public and many private businesses this year. Pay raises all around this year — from 1 to 5 percent for 139 employees. Many of the employees make $100,000 a year or more, but the airport has declined to summarize the total cost of the raises and, as yet, has not even provided a full list of current pay.
(CORRECTION: The original post here said 13 employees got bonuses, too. The airport’s attorney, Carolyn Witherspoon, now tells us after seeing what we’d written — and after a day of Leslie Peacock’s effort to get full and straight answers from a tight-lipped airport staff, that these bonuses were paid in 2010, not 2011. The bonuses are set by Mathieu.)
You know where I’m going don’t you? Tiajuana Williams, who initially told everyone in town our reporting was dishonest, got a 3 percent pay raise, to roughly $99,060 a year. She also got a $3,000 bonus in 2010. Call it battle pay. At the rate she’s going, she’ll catch up with Fire Chief Greg Summers ($114,000) in no time. She already makes more than several assistant Little Rock fire and police chiefs.
This, I guess, is what Mayor Mark Stodola promised would be consequences for airport hijinks, fat pay raises. I can’t imagine how much they’d have gotten otherwise. I remind you that this is a year in which no state employee will receive a pay raise of any sort and where some public employees are staring at a third year of no raises.
The city of Little Rock thinks it can convince voters it needs a tax increase?
The kicker to this story is that we finally received, after weeks of wrangling, an airport payroll dated May 2. Funny thing. It was last year’s payroll, not the amounts reflecting the raises we learned about today, though they took effect March 1. I’d not be wanting to release that information either, under the circumstances.
Other bonusees in 2010: