News: CJ Exclusives

DOT Officials Alter TransPark Study

RALEIGH – N.C. Department of Transportation officials significantly reduced a detailed version of a legislative report to exclude information that the Global TransPark “is perceived as a major financial liability” and that abandonment of the “less-than satisfactory” project could spell disaster for state leaders.

The report was requested by the General Assembly to study the transfer of the TransPark’s fixed assets and operations from the GTP Authority to another appropriate entity.

Earlier detailed versions weighed advantages and disadvantages for six potential alternative scenarios on the future of the Kinston airport. The final 481-word version presented to a legislative committee gave a single recommendation to assign oversight of the GTP airport to the state Division of Aviation for two years.

The boiled-down version was created under the direction of DOT Chief Deputy Secretary Gene Conti, according to DOT Deputy Secretary David King. “It was what Gene wanted,” King said. “He made a judgment that this was responsive to the legislature.”

The file on the study contained several longer versions of the report, the earliest dated March 19, 2002. Conti was appointed vice chairman of the GTP Authority by Gov. Mike Easley on March 27. The final edited version of the report was released May 7, long past its due date of Feb. 15.

In its original request for a copy of the report, Carolina Journal asked whether there was more to the report than the 481-word version. In a telephone interview Conti said it was the entire report and there were no other documents. Upon reviewing the GTP study file at DOT, CJ discovered the earlier comprehensive versions of the report.

The six alternatives discussed in the longer versions were: (1) to do nothing, with disadvantages including “to date performance has been less than satisfactory. The political repercussions from this scenario would be very damaging. The Global TransPark is perceived as a major financial liability;” (2) privatize the operation; (3) transfer to DOT’s Aviation Division; (4) set up a public-private partnership; (5) set up a regional authority; and lastly, (6) shut down the existing TransPark offices and turn over all fixed assets to the City of Kinston. “Politically, the ramifications of this action would be extreme and potentially disastrous to many elected and appointed individuals,” the document said.

“The amount of praise for finally stopping the financial hemorrhage the TransPark is perceived to have become, will be greatly outweighed by the condemnation of the long time opponents and naysayers in the press…,” the long version of the report says.

Carrington is associate publisher of Carolina Journal.