Authority members put stock in school

Three members said there's no conflict if financial interests are disclosed.
VIENNA -- A flight school hoping to begin operations at the Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport in April has two Western Reserve Port Authority members as financial backers, the board learned Wednesday.
During a short presentation by board member John Masternick on the various schools preparing to operate at the airport this year, port authority chairman Joe Maxin stated that he and fellow member Mike Harshman have a financial interest in one of them.
Mike Hillman, owner of Cortland Air Co. and Holding Corp., said Maxin and Harshman are among six investors in the company.
Masternick noted that the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics will begin operating its aerospace maintenance and support school starting in October in Hangar 3. The port authority and the school have signed a 10-year lease, he said.
Cortland Air will operate the Western Reserve Flight Center at the airport as soon as an agreement is reached with the port authority, Hillman said, adding that part of the deal would be to use a small office in the main concourse of the airport terminal.
Hillman said the school will train pilots and instructors and will have a relationship with Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. Credits through the Western Reserve Flight Center will apply toward an Embry Riddle degree. Masternick said Embry Riddle will have a similar arrangement with Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics.
The airport already has one flight school, Am Air.
Matter of concern
Robert Moosally, owner of airport fuel handler and service provider ReadyAir, earlier this week said he thinks the two board members' financial stake in the school is a conflict of interest. "They shouldn't even be on the board," Moosally said.
Masternick said he does not believe the ownership issue is a conflict since they have disclosed it.
Maxin said after the meeting that he will abstain from voting on issues relating to the school and has asked Steve Bowser, director of aviation at the airport, to give no preferential treatment to the school.
"That's my passion -- flying. I think that's the kind of people we need on the board. I'm putting my time where my mouth is, so to speak," he said.
Maxin said his interest in the school and in Am Air is primarily as flight instructor. "I don't see a conflict there," he said. Maxin said he is also one of five people with a financial stake in Am Air.
Harshman likewise said disclosing a financial or other relationship within the airport and abstaining from voting eliminates a conflict of interest. He will abstain from voting on issues relating to Cortland Air, Am Air and Winner Aviation, Harshman said -- since as a pilot he also has a longstanding relationship with Am Air and Winner.

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