Monday, September 17, 2007

First-class flight is near ethical violation

When City Manager George Kolb and Mayor Carl Brewer accepted first-class seats on a flight to Jacksonville last week, they came close to breaking the city's own ethics policy. But the upgrades, which Brewer and Kolb insist they didn't ask for, don't have enough monetary value ($40 per upgrade) to break the rule, City Attorney Gary Rebenstorf said. What's more, Rebenstorf said, is that to be a "gift," they would have had to shown some sign of acceptance. Because they didn't know about the upgrade until just before boarding, there was no acceptance, he said.

Rebenstorf said that although the city has paid AirTran to keep airfares low, the upgrades weren't a conflict of interest either.

The city's policy on gifts reads: "An occasional non-monetary gift of nominal value shall not be considered a gift, such as food at a reception generally open to employees or the public, so long as such a gift does not present any conflict of interest in fact or appearance. For purposes of this section "nominal value" shall mean having a value not exceeding $100 on any occasion, or from one person or entity in the aggregate during a consecutive 12 month period."

Brewer criticized The Eagle in a letter to the editor Saturday for printing a story about City Manager George Kolb and Brewer getting first-class seats in their flight to Jacksonville, Fla. He called the column by Carrie Rengers a "a lapse in basic journalistic standards."

Wrote Brewer: "Rengers seemed reluctant to emphasize that neither City Manager George Kolb nor I requested or expected preferential treatment. AirTran Airways officials, unbeknownst to us, assigned the business-class seating. It seemed neither prudent nor practical to interfere with the airline's seating decisions."


Anonymous said...

Oh, the airline upgraded the tickets charging the city more.
Don't ya just hate it when that happens.
This makes me wanna puke.

Anonymous said...

they claim they didn't accept "gifts" because they didn't know they were getting the upgrades until it had been given. what does that mean? the tickets should have been wrapped in a box with a big, bright bow and set under the christmas tree for a week to be considered a gift?! heck, i've received lots of gifts in my life that i didn't know i was getting until it was given to me. THAT'S WHAT A GIFT IS!!!!!!!!! this *is* rediculous and our city leaders should have stood up and said "no, thanks" and asked to be seated with the rest of the traveling party.

Anonymous said...

Typical Lawyer double talk, a gift is a gift despite the timing.

Anonymous said...

Has the City of Wichita made it clear to the heavily subsidized AirTran Airways that it is NOT appropriate to upgrade or "gift" preferential seating to any City of Wichita officials, representatives or employees? Would the Eagle consider investigating this and printing a copy of the communications between AirTran and the City? This would certainly remove any doubt about any future circumstances and define culpability.

Anonymous said...

Guess Brewer and Kolb are not smart enough to know an upgrade when they see one.

It is pretty obvious what the reservation says and the ticket.

Brewer takes the people of Wichita for fools (or nuts if you use his words)