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Thella Bowens, the airport authority’s president, has continued traveling lavishly. 10News is the latest local television station to find that Bowens is being reimbursed for expensive international travel. The station also revealed that Bowens was awarded more than $22,000 in bonuses last year.

The 10News story says:

The I-Team dug into Airport Authority records and found CEO Thella Bowens spent $7,400 on airfare and nearly $1,300 on hotels during a business trip to Switzerland in June 2007. In 2008, the I-Team found that Bowens spent more than $8,000 on first-class airfare and $3,300 for a six-night hotel stay. …

I-Team found members of the Airport Authority, and Bowens, jetting to places like New York and spending $700 for first-class airfare and $1,500 for two nights in a hotel.

However, the biggest bill did not come from a European hotel or first-

class airline — it came from Bowen’s own bonus, the I-Team reported.

In 2008, Bowens received two bonuses: $13,319 in February and $9,900 in July.

This is at least the third time such expenses have been documented in the last six years. In 2003 and 2006, Fox 6 reported on similar expenses. The authority subsequently said it was tightening up its travel reimbursement policies. But the authority still allows employees and board members to travel first class when business-class seats aren’t available. They’re also allowed to bill for dry cleaning if they’re staying more than three nights.

The 2006 Fox story said:

Bowens took a trip to London that cost as much as $10,000 and the ticket for that trip was over $8,000, paid for with money derived from fees paid by travelgoers.

A few months later, records reveal that Bowens visited a resort in Kauai. The cost? A first class ticket for $2,450 and a hotel bill for $1,100, which included the Luau dinner for $68.

According to Ms. Bowens travel records, she returned to Hawaii in January of 2005. She flew first class again at a cost of $2,600 and an additional $1,000 on hotels and food.

In 2005, travel records indicate that Bowens also traveled to Tokyo on a business class flight that cost as much as $5,000. Mattes also uncovered prior trips to Washington DC in 2003 and 2004, each time flying first class, one of those tickets alone cost $3,600.

In June 2004, Bowens was off to a 5-Star Hotel in Munich and a tour of the magnetic train, that cost taxpayers $4,000. …

However, the most expensive trip on record, was trip to Auckland, New Zealand where the business class ticket cost $7,400 and her room cost more than $2,500.

I wrote this story in 2006 detailing other allegations against Bowens and other airport authority officials. Here’s a snippet:

Bowens, the authority’s president and CEO, had airlines ship barbecue meat — pork, beef ribs and brisket — for free from Angelo’s, a favorite Dallas restaurant. She formerly worked as budget administrator for the Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport. Hernandez claims that Bowens had 200 pounds of barbecue meat shipped in for an annual employee appreciation barbecue. Higher-ranking authority employees were required to pay money to subsidize the expense of the meat, the suit states.

Asking for such favors from airlines is wrong, the suit states, because officials are not supposed to receive gifts or favors because of their official positions.

ROB DAVIS

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