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REGIONAL AIRPORT Authority drafts reply to Rep. Ryan's letter



Published: Fri, August 5, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The port authority chairman says the congressman is misfiring on three points.

VIENNA -- Western Reserve Port Authority representatives worked overnight and into Thursday afternoon to draft a response to U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan's criticism of how the Pan Am deal was handled.

"I think what we have here is a basic failure to communicate thoughts and terminology," said William Reali, port authority chairman.

Ryan of Niles, D-17th, in a Tuesday letter to port authority directors, had urged "greater caution before announcing future service when an interested carrier is facing serious operational problems."

Limited facts

The congressman had told port authority officials June 15 about Pan Am fraud allegations, and his letter says the port authority moved ahead without having all the facts.

Reali responded in writing on Thursday: "If Congressman Ryan had additional information regarding a possible official investigation into the financial dealings and records of Pan Am, he should have been far more specific in his concerns, since the information he provided was exactly the information we already had in our possession."

Ryan, the port authority chairman said, is misfiring on three points:

* The June allegation of possible fraud in the forgery of a performance bond by Pan Am "was not an official investigation ... It was a review," the letter says. On Tuesday, 24 hours after the port authority withheld a $250,000 federal Small Community Air Services grant for marketing and media, the U.S. Department of Transportation asked the Inspector General to investigate the airline's actions and possible fraud.

Without that money, Pan Am President David A. Fink said he'd take his planes elsewhere. Service was to start Nov. 10 at the Vienna airport.

Early information

* The port authority's board was informed of all public records in June, as well as the congressman's concern. At that point the only information available was the issue of the alleged performance bond fraud by the former general counsel for Boston-Maine Airways Corp. "Pan Am indicated that John Nadolny had resigned and that no one in the company had known about the falsifying of the bond," Reali said.

Pan Am Clipper Connection is run by Boston-Maine Airways. Announcement of Pan Am's coming was made at a June 27 news conference at the airport.

The port authority's "due diligence" then showed the DOT wasn't going to ask for an official investigation, and the board was "satisfied that this incident did not affect service to Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport, since the filing was in regard to Pan Am's application of four additional aircraft to their fleet, which was outside the scope of the Pan Am authorized fleet that was to serve this region," Reali said.

The port authority was provided a schedule and routing showing how Pan Am intended to service all of its routes, including Youngstown, with its currently authorized three Boeing 727s, he noted.

Federal investigation

In the meantime, the Air Line Pilots Association has told the DOT that Nadolny falsified investment account and cash balance amounts in documents submitted to the DOT as evidence of the company's fiscal viability.

Karan K. Bhatia, assistant secretary for Aviation and International Affairs, requested the federal investigation into the carrier's finances.

Bhatia asked the Office of the Inspector General to initiate an investigation into the circumstances involving certain information filed by Boston-Maine Airways Corp. in proceedings before the DOT -- particularly whether other individuals employed by Boston-Maine were involved in, or knew of, Nadolny's actions.

* Negotiations with Pan Am "were handled in an open manner, and all problems were disclosed," Reali added.

Ryan made it clear in his letter that he doesn't want a repeat of the Pan Am situation.

Neither does the port authority, which continues to market the airport to other airlines. "We wish to jointly address any issues he has so we can avoid any current and future concerns," Reali said.




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