John Clark may care what others think about his job performance, but he’s pretty good at disguising the fact. He showed a stunning disregard for the residents of Arlington when he rammed through a runway extension at Craig Airport, one neighbors had been promised would never happen. He jets all over the world staying in lavish hotel rooms and spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbyists, yet he recently began laying off employees as a “cost-saving” measure. His agency is notorious for obstructing public records requests with exorbitant and patently illegal fees — in one case, attempting to collect $14,000 from a local lawmaker who wanted documents related to Craig. (Jacksonville City Councilmember Clay Yarborough eventually brought his own copying machine to the airport rather than pay the ransom.)
As the executive director of an independent city authority, Clark operates Jacksonville Aviation Authority with little public oversight and a board that follows his lead. Headquartered at Jacksonville International Airport, miles from other city functions and most media outlets, the authority largely flies below city radar. As a result, Clark often seems — and indeed has been allowed to be — unaccountable to anyone . . .
Clark’s salary has long been a point of contention for the airport’s critics and some city leaders. He signed a new contract in June 2007 with a base salary of $230,000 and guaranteed annual pay increases of five percent through May 2012. (His salary rose to $241,000 in June 2008 and will increase to $253,050 in June 2009. By comparison, Mayor John Peyton makes $173,941 a year.) He also enjoys a lucrative package of perks — an $850 monthly car allowance, and a $750-a-month allowance for a cell phone and business expenses (both increase by $50 annually). The airport authority pays 100 percent of health insurance premiums for Clark’s family, his membership dues to either the River Club or University Club, and puts $15,000 annually into a defined contribution or retirement plan for him.
Well, Clark will have to settle for the choice of one club in Indianapolis, the Columbia Club, since the Athletic Club has gone out of business. So can we assume Clark will be paid more than $253,000 in his new job here? Does he get a car allowance? Does he have a monthly expense allowance? Will we have to tender a public records request to learn that information? Will he charge us an exorbitant fee if we tender such a request?
Hat tip to Envisionindy.