Oddit

El Toro Airport Watch No. 139

Doug Wilson is a good example of why the county El Toro Program office needs an independent auditor. He's the senior staff analyst who answers all the county supervisors' questions concerning their current El Toro study sessions. Sources close to the supervisors said they doubted Wilson's qualifications and say he's basically "done nothing but stayed home for the past few years." In addition, they said, Wilson's wife is Vicki Wilson, head of the county's mammoth Public Facilities and Resources Department and one of County Executive Officer Jan Mittermeier's top lieutenants.

According to Mittermeier spokeswoman Diane Thomas, Wilson worked for the county from 1979 until 1984, in both the county administrative office and John Wayne Airport. He then worked as a "consultant with private industry" until August 1999, when Mittermeier brought him into her office to do "El Toro supporting work."

Thomas said she couldn't provide the Weekly with a copy of his résumé because "he told me he didn't have a current résumé."

Current, accurate paperwork is already a big problem at the El Toro office. Some county supervisors—usually Todd Spitzer, but increasingly Chuck Smith as well—claim Mittermeier's office hasn't been completely accurate or honest concerning El Toro matters, especially contracts.

The latest blowup concerned the firm JHTM & Associates. Hired in 1997 explicitly for work at John Wayne Airport, a recent county memo showed the firm also did extensive El Toro consulting—work that didn't appear in its original contract. That revelation pissed off enough supervisors to order an audit of the program and the airport funds that keep it alive.

"I've been waiting for this audit for three years," said one longtime airport opponent. "It finally came."

The auditors have a lot of work ahead of them. Contrary to Mittermeier's May 1 memo assuring the supes that her purpose "is to ensure the board has the most accurate, complete information" and John Wayne Airport director Loan Leblow's claim in the May 3 Los Angeles Times that "our books are open to anybody," the county has always been loath to allow the public access to its El Toro files.

The Weekly frequently ran into this problem. Officials first told us correspondence between the program office manager and chief El Toro contractor P & D Aviation didn't exist; then that it was so voluminous they didn't have to provide it. Requests for internal memos were fruitless—releases that should have filled boxes were actually, according to the county, merely single-page documents.

Worst of all were invoice requests. In early 1998, the Weekly asked to see P & D's invoices for the previous six months. What the county should have released was a list itemizing each P & D principal, each individual meeting or assignment, the date of that work, how many hours it took and the resulting billing. But this is what we got, in its entirety:

•Aug. 26, 1997: $224,784.44

•Sept. 26, 1997: $181,193.46

•Oct. 24, 1997: $317,937.63

•Nov. 21, 1997: $140,568.88

•Dec. 26, 1997: $159,975.97

•Jan. 23, 1998: $206,933.84

For anyone who wants a realistic picture of the work county consultants are doing, this information is absolutely useless. The county has already spent more than $40 million on El Toro. Are all the invoices like this? Has the county been blindly paying P & D and its other contractors? Or do actual invoices exist within the cabinets and on the hard drives of the county El Toro office?

We'll see.

 
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