AIRPORT MANAGER FORCED TO RESIGN - Tucson Local Media: Import

AIRPORT MANAGER FORCED TO RESIGN

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Posted: Tuesday, May 28, 2002 11:00 pm | Updated: 7:46 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Roger Dougan, the manager of the Marana-Northwest-Regional Airport who was suspended and placed on paid administrative leave last month, is expected to tender his resignation by June 30.

Dougan's suspension came after a rash of allegations of mismanagement and speculation by Marana's assistant town manager and others that Dougan may have been traumatized by witnessing the death of 19 Marines in a plane crash at the airport two years ago.

In February, the Arizona Department of Transportation's Aeronautics Division questioned allegedly illegal procurement practices related to more than $75,000 of ADOT grant money paid to a trucking contractor for a fence project at the airport, according to documents obtained from the town.

ADOT suspended reimbursements to Marana for the project, then resumed payments even though Marana was not able to provide any evidence the work was put out for competitive bidding as state procurement regulations and the Marana town code require.

Before becoming Marana's airport manager in 2000, Dougan had been employed as an airport development manager for ADOT's Aeronautics Division to oversee state grants given to small airports such as Marana's.

"There were a lot of performance issues with Roger," said Marana Assistant Town Manager Mike Reuwsaat. "A lot of it had to do with how the grant program was handled and the projects out there at the airport."

The trucking contractor, Rick Westfall of Westfall Industries, has been a well known figure in Marana politics and charities for years. Although no evidence exists that anyone in Marana town government steered work to Westfall, he has had considerable involvement with Marana town government. (see related story page 7)

Westfall's company was also paid more than $23,000 from Marana's general fund last year for an unrelated town road project at the airport. Marana officials admitted that sealed competitive bids were not solicited for that work either.

Westfall did not return calls seeking comment.

Reuwsaat said the town discovered in February that more than $402,000 in grant payment requests had not been submitted by Dougan to the state for reimbursement, or had been submitted late.

"It was like he wasn't filing things timely. He was filing them in aggregate numbers, and they weren't matching up to the grant allocation numbers," said Reuwsaat, who traveled to Phoenix with Marana Finance Director Roy Cuaron to meet with ADOT officials and balance the grant accounts. "Now we're on a monthly billing cycle. Again, a lot of it was a process issue in the way that Roger was handling it, which was different than the way ADOT was expecting it."

Dougan continues to collect his $4,325 per month salary despite being barred from the airport. A March 27 letter to Dougan from Reuwsaat in Dougan's town personnel file placed conditions on the remaining term of his employment.

"The leave will end on or before June 30, 2002 and will be followed by your resignation. During the six-week leave period, you are still considered to be an employee of the town. You are expected to adhere to town personnel policies and to refrain from communicating with vendors, (the Federal Aviation Administration) and other agency officials, consultants, users and the fixed base operator. As discussed with you on March 22, termination will be effective immediately if you violate town policies or communicate with any town contractor or vendor," the letter said.

A later memo from Reuwsaat added ADOT and "anyone associated with the airport" to the list of people and organizations Dougan was forbidden to talk to while he was still collecting a Marana paycheck.

Dougan said he was under the impression he should not speak to the Northwest EXPLORER either and refused to comment on any of the town's allegations.

"I've been told not to talk to anyone about the situation or I would be terminated immediately rather than being placed on leave," Dougan said. "Maybe someday I'll be able to give my side of the story, but at this point, I can't comment at all. I just can't."

On paper, Dougan seemed to be a perfect manager for Marana's 530-acre airport when he was hired Jan. 3, 2000. His resume contained an impressive list of accomplishments, including having managed the Robert Airport in Poteu, Okla. He also reopened and owned the Twin Cities Airport in Van Buren, Ark. before being hired by ADOT.

By the time of Dougan's suspension by Marana, the town had lined up more than $27 million in state and federal grants brought in by Marana or assumed from Pima County, the previous airport owner.

Marana purchased the airport in 1999 for $206,200. As a bedroom community with few local employment opportunities, Marana has for years been seeking a way to develop a job base for its citizens.

Town elected officials and administrators have said they hope to turn Pima County's former Avra Valley Airport into a business center along the lines of the thriving Prescott Airport or the Goodyear Airport near Phoenix.

A master plan for the airport envisions current companies expanding and new businesses developing to service aircraft at the facility, and the potential for satellite companies locating on adjacent state and privately held land the town is working to acquire.

The airport has yet to show a profit, and was running more than $50,000 in the red last year, according to Reuwsaat.

The airport remains hampered by a building moratorium imposed long before the town obtained the facility. The lack of an adequate fire suppression system has prevented either the town, or the fixed base operator, Tucson Aeoroservice Center, from building any new facilities at the airport.

The grants, which stretched out to projects to be developed through 2007, included the much-needed fire suppression system, a new security fence bordering the runway and tarmac, extensions of the current runways and construction of new runways and aprons, and land acquisition costs, according to town records.

Marana is expected to contribute $1.4 million in matching funds as part of the $27.8 million in total grants it has received so far.

Grants issued by ADOT and the FAA require strict accounting of how money is spent and generally require competitive bidding by contractors.

On Feb. 22, a month before Dougan was called to a meeting with Reuwsaat and Marana's Community and Economic Development Director Dick Gear and stripped of his duties, Dougan received a letter from ADOT questioning three jobs done by Westfall's small trucking concern.

"It appears the reimbursement costs are well above the industry standard for these items," said the letter from Tammy Martelle, airports project manager for ADOT. "We have also reviewed the Town of Marana's Town Code Sections 3-4-5 and 3-4-6. We are requesting a letter from the town of Marana certifying that these rules were adhered to with regards the work that was contracted to Westfall Transport."

The codes cited by Martelle govern Marana's regulations for procurement and competitive bidding, which require sealed bids from contractors for products or services obtained by the town valued at more than $14,000.

Another letter from ADOT to Dougan in September about the disputed work indicated ADOT would suspend reimbursements to Marana until after it reviewed "itemization and certification" of the project the town was expected to submit. The letter also noted that it was "unusual that the work can be authorized without some type of bidding or procurement procedure."

Martelle refused comment on the matter and referred questions to her supervisor, Michael Klein, ADOT's airport program manager.

"They didn't actually give us certification that the work was bid. What they provided was a statement from a certified engineer that the work was commensurate with similar work," Klein said.

ADOT did eventually reimburse Marana for Westfall's work after certification was provided by engineer C. Leon Vicars, who said he offered his professional opinion that the work was not overpriced.

Vicars is employed by Kimley-Horn and Associates, a national engineering consulting firm that is being paid $235,310 to oversee development projects at the airport, according to town records.

"The breakdown of the work done by Mr. Westfall indicates to me that it wasn't unreasonably priced," Vicars said. "It's right in keeping with the industry standard and what you would expect to pay for the type of work performed."

According to Vicars' certification letter to ADOT, Westfall was paid $8,580 to remove 5,720 linear feet of barbed wire fence; $67,264 for clearing vegetation and debris from along the roadway; $27,180 for clearing vegetation and debris from the fence line; and $23,704 for removing a dirt berm.

Both Klein and Reuwsaat said the issue of whether Westfall's work was ever put to bid remained unresolved. Reuwsaat said he also was unable to determine whether the work Westfall did removing the fence and clearing the fence area of brush and debris was put out for bid.

"Honestly, we've gone through all the files Roger left behind and we can't find anything to indicate whether it was bid or not," Reuwsaat said.

Prior to the issue with ADOT over Westfall's work, other problems had begun to emerge, Reuwsaat said.

"We had meetings for airport planning that Roger wouldn't show up for. There were some important meetings with Pima Association of Governments related to development at the airport that he hadn't attended at all," Reuwsaat said.

An important application to the Federal Communications Commission pertaining to radio frequencies at the airport was denied because Dougan turned it in late, Reuwsaat said.

According to performance evaluations obtained from his town personnel file, Dougan received a good review in his first year from Reuwsaat, his immediate supervisor. His second year performance review, completed in January 2001, identified only a few areas needing improvement, including his "visionary leadership" of the airport.

"Roger has a general idea of the long term development of the (Marana) Northwest Regional Airport. However, Roger needs to focus on developing and implementing a process to guide the future development of the airport," Reuwsaat wrote.

In the conservative environment of Marana town government, Dougan's ponytail and penchant for wearing jeans and leather motorcycle chaps also seemed to stand out.

"Roger sometimes wears inappropriate clothing for the position and his grooming is not always acceptable for his position," Reuwsaat wrote in Dougan's 2001 review.

Dougan responded to the evaluation with a four-page letter to Reuwsaat lamenting the lack of staffing at the airport, noting that he was operating the facility as "a department of one."

Dougan also apparently took issue with the town's own lack of "visionary leadership" for the airport's future.

"I am reminded of the statement I made when first accepting the position. That was, I consider my role to be more of a 'navigator' rather than that of a 'captain.' Once the destination is determined, it should be my responsibility to implement the course of action necessary to guide the airport to that point. This destination, I believe, is dictated by the overall vision that the town leaders have established for the community as a whole.

"It would be counterproductive for me to take steps toward developing an industrialized facility, if the community leaders are looking for a facility to serve just as a residential base," Dougan wrote in the letter dated Feb. 6, 2001.

Shortly before Dougan was placed on leave, relations had deteriorated to the point that Dougan was ordered by Reuwsaat to cease sending copies of their e-mail messages to members of the town council.

"It is nice to see you have decided to begin communicating," Reuwsaat e-mailed to Dougan March 20. "The nature and content of your e-mail constitutes day-to-day business and is not appropriate to be forwarded to council members. I have had Councilmember (Jim) Blake request that you not e-mail him. You are also not to forward e-mail on to other council members, but to (Marana economic coordinator) Dick Gear and myself if appropriate. Any further forwarding will be considered insubordination."

According to Reuwsaat, the three council members being "cc'd" on e-mail Dougan sent to him and Gear - Blake, Herb Kai and Carol McGorray - were all members of the Airport Advisory Committee.

Blake said he ordered the e-mail forwarding to cease because he believed the information he was receiving was unnecessary.

"While I am a member of the airport committee, a lot of the stuff he was sending was personnel matters that I shouldn't be involved with. I can't have every department head sending me information on every day-to-day occurrence going on," Blake said.

According to records obtained from the town, the e-mail messages immediately preceding Reuwsaat's chastising message included requests by Dougan for information and status reports on various airport projects handled by Reuwsaat and Gear.

"At the time of reorganizing in January, you were to study the (airport) master plan and recommend revisions. Where in the process are you and can I provide or secure any information?" Dougan asked in one message.

The tension between Dougan and the town rose steadily after a crash of a military aircraft at the airport in 2000, some employees and airport tenants said.

"When Roger was faced with conflict he kind of became rebellious," said Tony Frost, who has operated the Marana Skydiving Center at the airport for 25 years and said he considered Dougan a friend. "When you are in a button-down and tie kind of world, occasionally you have to be a button-down and tie kind of guy. I don't think the town appreciated someone going before the town with a biker image. I don't think the town cared for that kind of long-haired image … I noticed that Roger changed after the crash of the Osprey."

On April 8, 2000, 19 Marines perished when their MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft crashed while attempting to land at the Marana airport during what was expected to be a routine training exercise.

The crash, which had no survivors, was one of the worst losses of life experienced by any branch of the armed forces in peace time.

Reuwsaat said Dougan, his wife and 19-year-old son had gone to the airport specifically to watch the Marine maneuvers that night.

The Department of Defense would later commend Dougan for trying to help rescue Marines from the burning aircraft.

"At that point, things changed for Roger. He became more intransigent. He seemed to be angrier, his marriage broke-up, he became angry with the (primary lease holder at the airport.) This is the same kind of thing that causes people to seek counseling 30 years after Vietnam for post-traumatic stress syndrome," Frost said.

"I've often wondered if that had an effect on Roger," Reuwsaat said. "We offered him counseling, but he said he didn't need it. When we had another fatality out there earlier this year, he told me that he had seen about 22 aircraft crash in his career and he was used to it by now."

But Jane Howell, Marana's human resources director, said Dougan did in fact receive help provided through a private sector counseling service the town contracts with.

"Not only Roger, but his wife and son also received counseling," Howell said.

Marana has yet to begin a search for a new Airport Manager, Reuwsaat said.

"Roger has a lot of strengths. I think that when you look at his resume, one of his greatest strengths is that he's a good pilot and had exposure to a lot of things. But it didn't work out here in Marana. Some of those things didn't translate into the performance that the town needs in its airport manager in Marana at this time," Reuwsaat said.

WESTFALL COVERAGE 'UNFAIR'

by Patrick Cavanaugh

Marana businessman Rick Westfall has received more than $98,000 in work from the town of Marana in the last two years without having to go through state-mandated bidding requirements.

No evidence exists that anyone in town government improperly steered work to the trucking contractor. However, Westfall's friendship with Marana Mayor Bobby Sutton Jr. and other town officials raises the appearance of impropriety, some Marana politicians say.

Sutton said he believes the Northwest EXPLORER has been unfair in raising his admitted friendship with Westfall in previous stories about the possibly improper procurement.

"It's not fair that my name is automatically associated with Rick Westfall's every time his name pops up in a news story," Sutton said. "I don't have anything to do with the town's procurement. There's a lot of people who have known Rick a lot longer than I have."

Westfall did not return calls seeking comment.

Westfall has been active in several Marana charities and also organized a citizens' committee last year that unsuccessfully attempted to provide the unpaid mayor and council a salary from the town's general fund.

Campaign finance records show Westfall contributed $300 to Mayor Bobby Sutton's 1999 mayoral election.

According to Marana police reports and interviews with police and the victim, Westfall threatened to kill KE&G Construction foreman Bill Campbell May 24, 2000 during an argument over road work in front of Westfall's business at 5300 W. Ina Road.

Westfall reportedly called Sutton when Campbell called Marana police. The police report languished for more than five months in Marana without being processed.

"He threatened to kill me three times, and admitted to a police officer that he said it," Campbell said of Westfall. "He told me that he was friends with the mayor and that he would have our construction shut down."

Westfall's case was transferred to Oro Valley Magistrate Court in September 2000. Westfall was cleared of any charges after Campbell dropped the complaint.

Westfall and Sutton vigorously denied there was anything improper in the way the case was handled by Marana.

Westfall was also involved in a case of illegal dumping April 23. Marana officials said the contractor dumped tons of smoldering brush, trash and dirt in a Marana neighborhood after clearing a vacant lot for the town's public works department.

Marana Council Member Ed Honea, a lifelong town resident, agreed that Sutton should not be linked to Westfall's work for the town, noting that "everybody in Marana" knows Westfall.

"He's a friend of mine, too. I've known him for more than 20 years and I didn't know anything about those jobs either," Honea said. "It's not that big a town up here on the north end. You go to school with people, your kids know their kids. Everybody knows everybody. I've never been in his house, but I know him well."

Farhad Moghimi, Marana's town engineer and public works director, has flatly denied that anyone suggested Westfall's company be used on an airport road project he oversaw last year.

The project earned Westfall more than $23,000, according to town records.

An airport fence project earlier this year that paid Westfall almost $75,000, most of which came from an Arizona Department of Transportation grant, was overseen by Marana-Northwest Regional Airport Manager Roger Dougan.

Dougan, who is on paid administrative leave over allegations of mismanagement, refused to comment.

Honea said he believes the lack of bids does raise concerns because of the perception it creates.

"I'm not going to discuss it, but I do have concerns. I don't think that it was illegal, but I think it was wrong. But you see the guy that was giving out the bids (Dougan) is not here anymore. We're still dealing with that," Honea said."

And although the contribution from Westfall to Sutton's campaign was listed on the mayor's campaign finance report, Honea said he too has received campaign contributions from the contractor through a business association Westfall belongs to.

"He (Westfall) gave money to me, too. I got money from the rock and quarry people, it was my biggest fund-raiser four years ago. He's part of that operation. Rick has called me several times wanting to talk about concerns. We're a small community. You can look at in a number of ways. Rick Westfall belongs to (The Church of Latter Day Saints), there's several members of the LDS involved with the town. He's got involvement with every one of those people. He goes to their church. Rick Westfall's president of the Marana (High School Football) booster club. How many of us have kids or grandkids attending Marana High School?"

Ora Mae Harn, Marana's political matriarch who retired from the town council last year after serving twice as mayor and 16-years on the council, said politicians have to be careful in their personal associations.

"I don't think anybody in town government has actually done anything wrong. But it is becoming an embarrassment. It's a bad perception. In politics, you have to stay away from that stuff. You have to keep your skirt clean," Harn said.

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