The Gary Airport Authority moved quickly to hire Clark as soon as he had left the Indianapolis job, granting him a $350-per-hour consulting contract capped at $5,000 per month in April 2012. Six months later, the authority upped the monthly cap to $10,000 while lowering the per-hour fee to $245. In April this year, a joint airport/city committee signed Clark to a performance-based contract that could net him $500,000 or more by this fall — if he can land a public-private partnership deal for the airport.
JClark Aviation was the only firm considered for those jobs. For the public-private partnership deal, firms also were hired for public relations, financial management and legal advice without any formal request for proposals issued.
Clark's work under the public-private partnership contract has the potential to affect the airport's flight path for decades to come. With just two scheduled passenger flights per week, everyone admits the airport just outside Chicago has never achieved its potential and desperately needs a new direction.Despite his base consulting contract capping his payments at $10,000 a month, Benman notes that his actual bills have exceeded $10,000 in several recent months, which all were approved due to expanding work assignment.
At an Airport Authority meeting in late February, authority member Nikki Thorn sharply questioned why Clark's pay had exceeded the $10,000 maximum stipulated for four straight months.
She was told by authority President Nathaniel Williams that Clark had been given “new tasks.” Williams said he had approved the extra payments.
“My concern is the airport is paying over and above what is in the contract,” said Thorn, who was appointed to the authority this year by the Porter County Board of Commissioners.
Billing records obtained by the Times under an Access to Public Records request show under the amended contract, the airport paid JClark Aviation $12,374 in October, $14,173 in November, $12,127 in December and $12,789 in January. In addition, JClark Aviation picked up $3,738 more in October under the previous contract.You can tell a reporter detests the subject he is reporting on when he describes his height, demeanor and clothing he wears.
At a height of 5 feet 4 inches and a build once described as like “a cinderblock,” Clark is someone who has always punched above his weight in the aviation industry.
In Jacksonville, Fla., he started as a deputy director at its port authority in 1991 and rose to become CEO of its six airports, tripling his pay in the process. Accolades while at Indianapolis included being named 2011 Airport Director of the Year by Aviation Revenue News magazine.
At Gary Airport Authority meetings, Clark wears an all-business demeanor, dark suits and crisply polished, tasseled loafers. He peers at authority members on the other side of the table over the tops of eyeglasses worn low on his nose, with just a few papers arranged in front of him.
He is concise. He easily communicates his broad knowledge of the industry. Occasionally, he'll lean back in his chair with a bemused smile as one of his points is beaten back or is not well taken by authority members