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May 19. 2014 10:21PM

Manchester-Boston Regional Airport director's travels draw fire from Manchester Mayor Gatsas

MANCHESTER — The hefty travel itinerary of Airport Director Mark Brewer is again drawing fire from Mayor Ted Gatsas and some of the aldermen.

Brewer is scheduled to be away for more than 30 days between June and the end of 2015, with trips scheduled for conferences and meetings around the country, as well as ones in Munich and Hawaii.

The travel schedule is lighter than it has been the past few years, when Brewer was serving as chairman of the American Association of Airport Executives. Brewer will no longer chair the group, but he will continue to serve on its executive board, he explained in a letter to the aldermen, and this will require the out-of-state trips.

The AAAE covers the cost of the trips, but Mayor Ted Gatsas and other aldermen have raised concerns that they keep Brewer from focusing all his attention on the Manchester airport, which has been struggling financially due to a decline in airline routes over the past decade.

On Thursday, Moody’s Investor Services announced that it had lowered the airport’s credit rating moderately, the latest rating agency to do so.

Brewer has argued that his role with AAAE helps the airport by giving him the opportunity to network with airline executives and officials.

But at Monday’s meeting of the aldermen’s Committee on Accounts, Alderman-at-Large Joe Kelly Levasseur questioned the value of the networking.

“If the networking is working so well, we wouldn’t be in this situation we’re in now,” he said. “That’s not networking to me; it’s hanging out. It seems like a waste of resources ... in an extremely difficult environment, when the bond rating is going down.”

Alderman-at-Large Dan O’Neil defended Brewer’s role with the association and the travel it involved.

“The nature of their business is meeting with people, networking and trying to get an edge,” he said.

O’Neil also pointed out, as he had the last time concerns about Brewer’s travel were raised, that two mayors, including Gatsas, had written letters to endorse him for the leadership position with the association.

Gatsas said he never would have done so had he known that it would result in Brewer being out of town for up to 60 days a year.

“The reason you have this before you now, is I wouldn’t sign any more vouchers for travel,” he told the committee.

tsiefer@unionleader.com



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