Airport director asked to empty hangar

CNJ staff photo: Robin Fornoff Clovis homebuilder Bob Linn checks the oil on one of his airplanes, kept at Clovis Municipal Airport. Linn’s complaint prompted City Manager Joe Thomas to order Airport Director Steve Summers to stop using a hangar to store personal items.

Robin Fornoff

Clovis’ city manager has ordered Clovis Municipal Airport Director Steve Summers to stop using an airport hangar to store personal items.

City Manager Joe Thomas said a previous city manager 13 years ago had given Summers written permission to use the hangar, but Thomas ended the practice when he learned about it this summer.

Thomas said former City Manager Ray Mondragon gave written permission for Summers to use the hangar on Aug. 28, 1998.

Thomas said he told Summers to empty the building after learning of the agreement after a local resident complained.

Summers, who earns $68,717 a year, said he considered use of the hangar part of his compensation. Summers also stays in a city-owned home at the airport rent free, receiving a monthly $400 credit for providing around-the-clock security, Thomas said.

Thomas said the $400 a month credit is the fair market value the city could charge for renting the home Summers occupies.

“I moved from a 2,000-square-foot home with a garage to a single-wide trailer when I took this job 17 years ago,” said Summers. “There was no storage.”

Questions about the hangar arrangement were raised by Clovis homebuilder Bob Linn, who demanded Summers be charged with embezzlement in complaints filed last June with Clovis police and the state attorney general.

On Wednesday, Linn said police told him there would be no charges, citing the Mondragon memo granting Summers permission to use the hangar that rents for $110 a month. A police investigation started July 7 also notes that 9th Judicial District Chief Deputy District Attorney Andrea Reeb concluded “no criminal charges are appropriate in this matter.”

“I am disappointed,” Linn said, noting a long waiting list of airplane owners anxious to rent an airport hangar. “There have been names on that waiting list for at least a year,” said Linn.

Thomas and Summers said the hangar was emptied in July and has since been rented. While acknowledging using the hangar for personal storage was unusual, Thomas said having department chiefs live on-site in city-owned homes is not an unusual arrangement, and such agreements require the employee to work enough hours of overtime to offset a fair-market rate for the rent.

Thomas said the city has had similar arrangements with wastewater treatment plant superintendent Durwood Billington and city zoo director Vince Romero. Thomas said it saves the city costs of providing 24-hour security.

Thomas and Summers said a waiting list for the hangars is a new phenomenon they believe coincides with the recent expansion at Cannon Air Force base. Thomas noted there was an abundance of empty hangars at the airport when Summers was originally granted permission by Mondragon.

Summers said he doesn’t think using the hangar was unusual or wrong. He said his predecessor as airport director had a similar arrangement.