One year ago The Ripp Report had a couple of people contributing time to its publication. A few people would also step forward with information. Today we are very pleased to say that about 8 to 10 people are directly involved and every week we get unsolicited information in various forms from citizens. The Ripp Report is based on documents that are requested through freedom of information or obtained from the public domain.
This report involved several hundred pages of material and about 6 weeks of research where several people provided the typing, editing and time. The final result was a 42 page complaint containing documents that support the allegations and a request for further investigation. This report reflects information obtained on a voluntary basis. A formal investigation has the benefit of putting people under oath and obtaining documents through legal means, not available to the public.
Now one of two things will happen the legal system will step in and do a through investigation, which may take a 100 years, or the Court of Public Opinion will react first, lets hope the latter. Waiting for the authorities has proven to be fruitless, people are the power— and it is our responsibility.
Would you buy a car without the title? Would you buy a house, pay the mortgage, and have no title?
That is exactly the situation Fairhope tax payers find themselves in today. The Mayor wants the property at the Airport in the name of the City of Fairhope. The Airport Authority wants the city to appropriate the tax dollars, 310,000 a year, to pay down the 8 million dollar debt and leave the property in the name of the Authority.
Council President Jack Burrell has been adamant that the Authority have ownership. He has provided no plan— only a fluff power point presentation that said absolutely nothing. The Authority has been receiving 500,000 dollars a year for 6 years and paid very little on the principal. He has no plan, or we have yet to be let in on just what Jack’s plan is for the Airport. The property should be a direct asset of the City and be in the City’s ownership.
Who is Mr. Burrell representing?
Mr. Burrell as City Council President controls the agenda of the council and work session. He has not allowed the agenda item to repeal ordinance 1572, to come forward nor any further comments relative to the Airport.
The same Councilman Burrell was the elected official and Airport Authority Board member that negotiated the below lease as well as selection of who would get the lease. It is up to the Court of Public Opinion, do you think this is fair, ethical, honest, good business or in the best interest of Fairhope? Let the City Council know what you think.
The Court of Public Opinion looks forward to Mr. Burrell’s explanation and we will extend him more than 3 minutes to do so.
Special Prosecutions Division
P. O. Box 300152
Montgomery, Al. 36130-0152
Re: Supplement to Complaint
Fairhope Airport Authority
In response to your letter Jan. 3 2017, I am forwarding additional information supporting the allegations of improper bidding by the Fairhope Airport Authority. The elected official, Mr Jack Burrell, Fairhope City Council President, Fairhope Airport Authority voting Board member and liaison to the city. Mr. Burrell is also on the Fairhope Authority ad hoc committee, of two, who reviewed and who recommended the RFP in question. Besides Mr. Burrell there are several others that participated.
On two occasions information supplied to the Ethics Commission was contrary to the facts which produced an advisory opinion which was untrue.
The facts will show that the RFP bid process was grossly flawed and gerrymandered and that Mr. Burrell aided and abetted the process. We have received reliable information that Mr. Burrell [sometimes accompanied by his wife] has made numerous flights on aircraft provided by Hix/Snedeker aircraft aka Mid Bay Air LLC. While an elected official.
Mr. Terry Chapman [acting as an individual] and Mr. Kel Jones of Executive Aviation, were the other two bidders with Hix/Snedeker DBA Mid-Bay Air LLC. I feel both Mr. Chapman and Mr. Jones will cooperate fully in any formal investigation.
Hix/Snedeker Companies were clients of Executive Aviation prior to Mr. Hix appointment to the Fairhope Airport Authority. Mr. Hix was able to pool information from Executive Aviation and its operation into the information he was privileged to see from the Authority while he was a member from April to July 2015, prior to the RFP. Mr. Hix’s position as Sec. Treasurer also allowed him access to any and all financial information the Authority had on file. Mr. Hix had total access to any information the board had on record prior to the RFP.
The RFP did not follow the guidelines of the Ethics Commission Advisory Opinion. The most striking is that the “lease” was signed and notarized prior to the opinion being rendered, as required by law. The execution of the lease was Dec. 17th 2015, and the Advisory Opinion Feb. 3 2016.
Two bidders were not qualified and did not meet the guidelines to bid, set by the Authority. One bidder, Executive Aviation, had just been refused a lease by the authority for multiple, and conflicting reasons.
First that he had failed to provide financial information, which he insists is not true. Secondly in the Ethics Advisory Opinion, Executive Aviation is referred to as an “unrelated private party” “that individual failed to timely begin construction of the proposed hanger and on Sept 15 2015, the Authority decided to publicly advertise for Request for Proposal for a ground lease.” This statement is totally false, no lease existed so how could their be a failure to construct? Executive Aviation was anything but an “unrelated private party.” They had negotiated a lease for better part of a year and were set to sign the lease when the RFP suddenly appeared.
Mr. Chapman, learned by phone of the bid on short notice and submitted a hand written RFP with no financial information. If Executive Aviation was turned down for a lease for failure to provide financial information then how could Mr. Chapman be a valid RFP?
The Ethics Commission: “The commission has consistently held that when a public official wishes to do business with the entity on which they serve, it must be done through some type of bid process, regardless of whether the bid laws apply.” This requirement is what prompted an RFP instead of a direct lease.
Of the three bids, Executive Aviation was by far the most qualified, honest and in the best interest of the community and Airport Authority. Unlike the questionable answers in the Mid-Bay RFP, Executive Aviation has no flaws in any answers. Executive Aviation is a commercial operation flying passengers in and out of Fairhope. The net income to the Authority would be far greater than a personal hanger. Executive Aviation listed four aircraft and explained the status of each in question 4 of the RFP.
Hix/Snedeker companies doing business as Mid-Bay Air LLC. Lists three aircraft as 100% ownership, in the RFP. The FAA REGISTRY shows ownership of one aircraft, the other two Mr. Hix listed are registered to different owners. The RFP question specifically states [if more than one owner, please specify percentage of ownership]. Mr Hix answer is not truthful and misleading and should have been vetted by the Authority. Question 3 which asks for an estimate of fuel purchased annually in Fairhope is another issue where a great deal of embellishment is involved. The claim of over 100,000 gallons, by Mr. Hix should be verified by contacting the Fixed Based Operator at the airport who actually pumped the fuel. This as well as the aircraft ownership was never questioned by Mr. Burrell who sat on the selection committee.
Prior to the RFP process Mr. Chapman and Executive Aviation had discussed cooperation in leasing a hanger that could house 6 to 8 airplanes, far more than 2 or 3 planes Mr. Hix claimed for a personal hanger. Mr. Hix had approached Mr. Chapman prior to the RFP about investing with him on a hanger. Mr. Chapman declined as he needed no investor to finance his proposed hanger. Next came the RFP.
I have a wealth of information in the form of documents and would welcome an interview by your office, and would be happy to provide a copy of my documentation.
I am enclosing E-mails to the Ethics Commission related to the informal request and Advisory Opinion. Also included are e-mails from a Fairhope resident to Mr Hugh Evans, Chief council to the Ethics Commission, who in turned shared them with Attorney Bailey. Mr Bailey represents Mr. Hix’s, the winner bidder and submitted the request for the Advisory Opinion. The resident had every expectation of confidentiality when writing to Mr Evans and was not notified anything to the contrary. The resident later learned Mr. Evans had forwarded her correspondence to Mr. Bailey, without her consent or knowledge. I fail to see how the ethics commission can ignore its own rules. I will provide the Ethics Commission a copy of this letter as we do believe an Ethics Complaint has already been filed relative to this issue.
I am enclosing a copy of the Ethics Advisory Opinion, synopsis of a timeline, and e-mails related to the RFP, the three bids submitted, and FAA Registry, much more is available upon request.
I cannot anticipate that your office will open a formal criminal investigation or that the Ethics Commission will do anything. Baldwin County is a sewer of corruption facilitated by a sea of LLC’s
that connect elected officials with developers, engineers and private business. They have operated with obscurity and have never been held accountable which has only perpetuated the corruption. This issue, the RFP, I allege is a clear case of bid rigging which required collusion and conspiracy among several members of the Airport Authority Board and would never have been discovered had our previous Mayor not been defeated.
I do hope you see the serious nature of this complaint and choose to act on the information provided and available. Your office represents our courts and its laws. I represent the court of public opinion and will continue my efforts to expose political corruption in hopes that the citizens will become involved
and hold our elected officials accountable.
Francis Paul Ripp
The Ripp Report
CC. The Ethics Commission
F.B.I. Mobile Office, White Collar Crime
United States Attorney’s Office White Collar Crime