VDOT says airport commission should reimburse the state $4.5M

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Transportation says the Peninsula Airport Commission should reimburse the Commonwealth $4.5 million.

VDOT is recommending this following an audit of the commission. The audit looked into three years’ worth of reports.

The review found that in 2014 funds were used for unauthorized purposes to pay off a loan taken out by airline People Express. The commission signed off as the guarantor on the loan, and then was on the hook for the balance when People Express stopped operating.

Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne told WAVY.com that is a “significant breach of fiduciary responsibility.”

Read: Full VDOT report on PAC

State funds to the commission were suspended in January. Layne says that could be extended as a way to guarantee repayment, but says he has not yet made up his mind.

The commission has seen shake-ups at a few key positions this year, including the firing of executive director Ken Spirito for “violations of policy.”

Sharon Scott, Newport News Councilwoman and commission member, told 10 On Your Side’s Joe Fisher last month that Spirito’s firing was not related to the loan controversy.

VDOT’s final report found Spirito did not always provide “complete, open, timely disclosure” of key information to the commission. Real or perceived conflicts of interest were not disclosed, according to the report.

Acting Peninsula Airport Commissioner Sandy Wanner tells 10 On Your Side they take the report seriously, and are going to figure out how to repay the taxpayer money and put it to use in a way that benefits the public.

“We’re going to restore faith in the airport and it’s leadership and I’m going to take in my time here every opportunity to respond to the recommendations in a timely fashion to make sure everybody knows this is a great airport — a vital cog in Hampton Roads and in the Commonwealth,” Wanner said.