By Rich Pollack
    Minutes after being censured for violating bylaws, a member of the Boca Raton Airport Authority abruptly resigned, but not before raising questions about the salaries of airport staff, specifically the airport director.
    Dave Freudenberg, a former Boca Raton City Council member wrapping up his two-year term on the authority, told other members he began looking closely at the authority’s budget when the federal government announced it might stop funding salaries for controllers at the airports tower.
    Although the Federal Aviation Administration has reversed course and announced that it will fund tower operations at least until the end of September, Freudenberg said he still believes the public should know how much money the airport authority has and how that money is spent.
    “I have a real concern about what’s going on behind the scenes,” Freudenberg said, after tendering his resignation at the end of the authority’s meeting last month. “I think it’s time we look behind the curtain.”
    Freudenberg said he was specifically concerned with the salaries and benefits paid to the six full-time staff members. In the authority’s current budget, personnel expenses are listed at $1.2 million.
    Salary records obtained by Freudenberg show that airport director Ken Day receives a salary of more than $218,000 a year, while all six of the authority’s employees are each paid more than $89,000.
    “We have $1.2 million of employee expenses for six employees,” he said. “Stuart has $400,000 for five employees.”
    According to Freudenberg, Day’s salary is above an $80,000 average salary for general aviation airport directors and more than the salary of the Palm Beach County’s airport director, who is responsible for Palm Beach International Airport and three smaller county airports.
    Airport Authority members and staff countered Freudenberg’s concerns, defending the salaries and pointing out that no taxpayer dollars are used for employee compensation.
    “I find the staff of this airport to be 100 percent efficient,” authority Chairman Frank Feiler said during the meeting. “I don’t feel they’re overpaid. I wish we would pay them more because the value of what they do enables us to have an operating budget of the size that we do.”
    Feiler said that the airport staff deserves credit for operating the facility efficiently and effectively. “It is well run, well managed and well thought of,” he said.
    The airport — which has more than 50,000 arrivals and departures every year — currently has an operating budget of $3.2 million and more than $6.5 million in reserves.
    Janet Sherr, the airport’s director of landside operations, says Day deserves a lot of credit for building those reserves from $600,000 during his 13 years as director.
    "The airport is running beautifully,” she said. “We have contained the noise problem, constructed a tower that is operating well and increased reserves to $6.5 million.”
    She said one reason for the airport’s strong financial position is its ability to generate revenue from non-aviation related sources. More than half of its revenue comes from rents paid by three businesses, the Cinemark Palace 20, City Furniture and Boomers! Boca Raton.
    The remaining revenues come from rents to the two contracted operators at the airport — Boca Aviation and Signature Flight Support — and from a percentage of the fuel purchased by the operators.
    Sherr said the airport has received state and federal dollars for capital improvements and for salaries for air traffic controllers. The authority, however, is prohibited from using that money for its staff salaries, she said.
    Prior to his resignation, Freudenberg was the subject of complaints by staff members who said he was disruptive and abusive in demanding documents. An investigation by authority attorney Dawn Meyers concluded that Freudenberg had violated authority bylaws and a vote was taken to publicly censure him.
    Prior to the censure and subsequent resignation, the Boca Raton City Council — which appoints Airport Authority members — had voted to fill Freudenberg’s expiring term with local attorney Mitch Fogel.

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