The Morning Report
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In early August, Bob Watkins, the airport authority chairman, told me that when he went to the Chargers-Saints game in London last year — with tickets paid for by the airport authority — he took a member of Parliament involved in airport security issues.
The authority corrected Watkins last week, saying he’d actually taken James Burrows, then the CEO of Litelogic, a British company that puts LED advertisements on buses and that had interest in doing business in San Diego. Watkins repaid the $1,200 tickets in late August after our coverage highlighted that expense and others.
What the authority’s correction didn’t say: Burrows is part of Watkins’ extended family.
Burrows is married to Watkins’ niece, Gwynneth, said Peggy Fainelli, Watkins’ ex-wife.
In an interview Monday, Watkins refused to confirm the relationship. He later acknowledged that his brother, who now lives in San Diego, had lived in England and still has family there. Watkins said he contacts them when he’s overseas.
“A lot are in various businesses and I see them from time to time,” Watkins said.
Watkins said Burrows wanted to know more about doing business in San Diego. If Burrows or his company “would’ve bought a company in San Diego,” he said, “that would’ve been a success for San Diego.”
I asked why he originally believed the traveling public, which provides much of the airport authority’s revenue, should have paid for the tickets.
“The traveling public wants to see the region prosper,” Watkins said. “If you build an economy, it sustains opportunities for any number of organizations.”
I asked Watkins why he didn’t tell me that he’d taken his niece’s husband to the game when we first sat down for an interview in early August. He said he didn’t think about it at the time and that our on-camera conversation had been “pointed” and put him under pressure.
“I made some poor choices on answers,” he said. “I misspoke. I didn’t elaborate on a lot of questions I probably could’ve and I used examples that probably aggravated you and certainly aggravated the public.”
He said the analogy he made about an IRS auditor that suggested that I couldn’t relate to business class travelers because I didn’t make enough money was “inappropriate.”
“It made me look arrogant,” he said. “I’m not arrogant.”