NN/Williamsburg Airport opens bank records, appoints interim director

Airport commission put executive director on paid leave as state investigates their spending

Sandy Wanner (Photo courtesy Gloucester County)

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The Peninsula Airport Commission (PAC) has agreed to open up their bank records to state auditors, who are currently investigating the airport’s “unauthorized use” of $3.5 million in public funds.

The airport commission met Monday with the director of the Assurance and Compliance Office for the Virginia Department of Transportation. The auditor presented a list of requirements they’ll need to conduct their investigation and the airport commission agreed to be fully transparent.

The Newport News/Williamsburg Airport (PHF) has been under fire by VDOT since January, when state officials found out the airport used $3.5 million to guarantee a bank loan in 2014 for the now-defunct airline PeoplExpress.

Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne indefinitely cut funding from the airport.

State pulls funding from PHF over ‘unauthorized’ use of taxpayer money

Layne says PHF receives about $2 million a year in state funding. He says the money should only be used for capital improvement projects. He has expressed disappointment in the airport’s decision to use taxpayer money to pay off the operating losses of a failed airline.

The inspector general and attorney general are directly involved in the audit, according to Layne.

The PAC also appointed Sandy Wanner as interim executive director at their special meeting Wednesday.

Wanner spent 25 years in James City County, including 14 years as county administrator, before retiring in 2010. He says he’s worked as an interim administrator in Gloucester County, Isle of Wight County and King William County over the last two years.

“My role is to provide executive leadership and getting this ship righted,” said Wanner. “We have to keep the planes landing and taking off, and we are going to keep continuing to pursue Elite Airlines.”

Shakeup at Newport News/Williamsburg Airport in midst of state audit

Last week, the commission placed executive director Ken Spirito on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the state’s audit.

Wanner expects the state to take at least six more weeks to complete the audit.