The San Diego County Regional Airport Authority just announced that it will review its travel and expense reimbursement policies and consider how they can be changed to address the issues our coverage raised this week.

Bob Watkins, the authority’s chairman has requested that the authority’s audit committee discuss the issues when it meets Aug. 30.

“The Airport Authority takes its responsibility to protect the public trust very seriously and is concerned about the perceptions this has caused,” Watkins said in a statement.

The statement says Thella Bowens, the authority’s president and CEO, has directed the public agency’s staff to strictly adhere to existing policies. Our coverage revealed that those haven’t always been followed. Watkins last week argued that the existing policy was a guideline that needed flexibility — not a hard rule.

Bowens has asked for the authority board to discuss on Oct. 1 additional policy clarifications, refinements and changes suggested by the audit committee. The following issues will be reviewed, the authority’s statement says:

  • Reimbursement for meals for staff during travel.
  • Reimbursement for meals with consultants.
  • Reimbursement for staff and board meals within the San Diego region.
  • Reimbursement for meals that have missing receipts.
  • Air travel policy.
  • Management of exceptions to the policies.

“[S]ome of the expenses cited in recent media stories do raise questions that the Airport Authority is taking very seriously and that merit further review,” the authority’s statement said.

Darren Pudgil, a spokesman for Mayor Jerry Sanders, said the authority’s steps are a positive development.

“It certainly sounds like they are serious about addressing this issue,” Pudgil said. “We’re glad it’s being addressed. If you’re going to have policies, they should be followed.”


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