Some Clark County officials were still granted free parking last year at Harry Reid International Airport for personal use, though airport officials are aware of earlier abuses, according to new data.
The misuse of airport-issued key cards, revealed in Review-Journal articles from 1997 and 2005, is said to have ended years ago after airport staff reduced the number of cards issued from hundreds to a dozen. The cards are now only for county employees and law enforcement who regularly have business at the facility.
While recent data shows only three officials are misusing the cards, the airport hasn’t regularly tracked potential abuse for more than a decade.
Initially, airport spokeswoman Christine Crews told the Review-Journal that there was “no record of these people entering and exiting parking lots.”
But after the newspaper requested a search for deleted data, the agency produced spreadsheets of entry and exit data for 36 cards issued to current and former departments and employees over a two-year period. The agency, which declined to produce law enforcement cards for alleged security reasons, said there were 12 active cards issued to people who do not work at the airport.
Newly obtained records show Clark County Deputy Executive Kevin Schiller, Clark County Commissioner Jim Gibson, and Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg repeatedly parked for free over the weekend, or when their calendars and vacation diaries indicated that they were not on official business.
Schiller and Gibson reimbursed, combined, nearly $700 in personal parking costs in March after receiving data obtained by the news agency. Airport staff provided receipts for refunds at the Review-Journal’s request.
Fudenberg, who retired in 2020, would have had to pay between about $280 and $830 depending on where he parked had he not used the county parking pass. He did not respond to requests for comment.
Airport staff said they stopped generating monthly usage reports that could have identified personal parking after 2005. They were unable to specify when the reports ended.
The “monthly reports cited in the 2005 story you attached are no longer being generated,” Crews wrote in a December 2021 email.
Chris Jones, the airport’s marketing manager who oversees parking complaints, said it didn’t make financial sense to monitor abuse after the airport drastically reduced the number of parking passes.
“If you look at the return on investment of pulling something on a regular basis, it’s just not something that’s the best use of our time to regularly check when the potential for abuse is so low,” a- he declared. “It’s not like 300 people have the cards they shouldn’t have.”
But Nevada Press Association executive director Richard Karpel said the airport should check for possible abuse.
“The Department of Aviation either turned a blind eye to allowing the misuse of key cards to flourish or decided there was no reason to monitor card use,” he said. he stated in an email exchange. “But whether it’s wrongdoing or wrongdoing, the result is the same: poor management practices leading to an unacceptable lack of institutional control.”
Jones admits parking is a priority at the nation’s eighth-busiest airport, but said a few potential instances of abuse by officials would not significantly impact availability.
“We need people to realize how busy we are,” he said. “There are (parking) options, but your first choice may not be an option.”
Past abuses uncovered
Free parking passes date back to Bob Broadbent’s tenure as airport manager in the late 1980s. He provided courtesy parking to a host of public officials, including legislators, other elected officials, religious leaders, game officials and minor league baseball employees. In the 2005 story, the report found cardholders abused free parking at an estimated cost of over $60,000.
Parking at the airport has been a problem for years, with travelers complaining that they can’t find spaces in the old Terminal 1 garage or have to take shuttles from Terminal 3 or the economy car parks.
Long-term parking fees have risen from $12 per day in 2005 to $18 per day in Terminals 1 and 3, according to the airport’s website. Economy parking is $12 per day; it was $6 in 2005. The airport has approximately 15,000 parking spaces available to the public, but is looking to add additional public parking which is now used by employees.
The airport expects parking to bring in $123 million in fiscal 2022, about $32.7 million more than garage and grounds maintenance costs, records show. The surplus will be used to operate and maintain the airfield and terminal building.
Linda Jablon, 72, who resided in Las Vegas for 43 years before moving to Reno last year, emailed the airport in 2020 complaining about parking.
She said it was “appalling” that officials were abusing this benefit and said the airport’s parking system is a burden on the elderly and disabled who must use shuttles or park far from the terminal .
“I think it’s awful, but it’s always been that way,” she said.
Holiday and vacation parking
Jones said the current parking computer system, installed more than a decade ago, only stores about 800 days of data. To obtain a key card, the employee must sign a statement stating that the card can only be used for official business.
Newly obtained records showed that Fudenberg, Schiller, and Gibson repeatedly parked for free on weekends or when calendars and vacation logs showed they were not on government business.
Schiller paid the airport $432 for a dozen personal parking cases between November 2019 and last November, including parking on Thanksgiving Day and other holidays, records show.
He did not respond to calls, emails and a request for comment through county spokesman Dan Kulin.
“There were times when he used the card for dates that did not coincide with a work trip, and in those circumstances he reimbursed the airport for parking fees,” Kulin wrote in a statement.
Gibson reimbursed $255 for three instances of personal parking, records show.
Gibson said he assumed the airport would send him quarterly reports so he could pay for his personal parking, but the issue fell through the cracks until he saw the check-in requests. He requested that the airport send him quarterly reports on its future usage so that he could reimburse the agency for personal parking.
“It’s important,” he said in a phone interview. “Money is not what matters. I want to be trustworthy. I think I am trustworthy. I wish it were different. I wish I had dealt with it sooner. This will not happen again. »
Jones confirmed that the airport is again writing reports at Gibson’s request.
Former coroner gets more benefits
The most frequent apparent misuse of key cards was committed by Fudenberg, who was the subject of several Review-Journal investigations into questionable conduct during his tenure.
Fudenberg logged more than 23 parking days in just three months between October and December 2019, when his calendar or vacation logs showed he was not on official business.
There were nine days he took vacation and his calendar showed he was in Bahrain; four days when his calendar showed he was traveling with his girlfriend to Tampa, Florida; and another four days where he took a vacation without knowing where he was going.
On December 14, 2019, a Saturday, his calendar shows his girlfriend arriving at the airport at 4:30 p.m. Keycard data shows him entering the garage at 4:42 p.m. and leaving 28 minutes later.
The airport did not contact Fudenberg to reimburse the agency for parking, and aviation officials could not find his signed parking pass agreement, Jones said.
Contact Arthur Kane at [email protected] and follow @ArthurMKane on Twitter. Kane is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reports that hold executives and agencies accountable and expose wrongdoing.