Accused Of Embezzlement While Manager Of Hastings City/Barry
While the rumors were swirling hot and heavy over the last few
days, ANN has now confirmed substantive details (and held this
story until verified) involving the legal troubles
surrounding Jason Blair, the Executive Director of NAFI.
Blair was arrested earlier this month and charged with
embezzlement. The charge stems from some 2,510 gallons of fuel that
allegedly went unpaid while he was the manager of the Hastings
City/Barry County Airport in Michigan.
It is still not clear where the unpaid fuel went. The
Hastings Banner reports that an audit of airport records
from 2008 uncovered the discrepancy, but Barry County administrator
Michael Brown that the cause could have been anything from a faulty
accounting system to a broken pump. Investigating officers found
that access to the fuel pumps was open, and they could drive up to
the pump and find one of the gas nozzles unlocked and lying on the
ground. At that time, it was determined that a conviction would be
difficult to obtain due to the access to the fuel pumps.
The investigation was re-opened in 2009, at the request of Brown
and current airport manager Mark Noteboom. Brown noted in police
documents that in one instance in the fall of 2008, a pilot was
able to dispense 25 gallons of fuel from the self-service pump but
was only charged for 9 gallons. He also said there was no
verification process at the airport to accurately track how much
fuel was delivered.
Blair had reportedly issued "test cards" for the pumps, which
capture information about the buyer but do not pay for the fuel, to
seven businesses at the airport. Blair was responsible for
collecting money for the fuel dispenses with the test cards, and
those businesses were given a discount. Two of those businesses
have since settled their debts with the airport, and officials say
discussions are underway with a third.
While Blair's company, Dodgen Aircraft, had racked up over
$25,000 in fuel costs for which no record could be found, Noteboom
said all but 240 gallons could be accounted for, and that
discrepancy could be due to spillage or evaporation.
Still, when Noteboom took over as airport manager, he said Blair
was difficult to work with during the audit. Blair suggested that
the payments were recorded to the wrong accounts, but Noteboom said
he was unable to find any record payment from Dodgen Aircraft.
Hastings City/Barry County
The paper reports that Blair told investigators that an
accountant was responsible for ensuring Dodgen Aircraft's bills
were paid, and that the accountant during the time in question had
been terminated from the company for "inappropriate accounting
practices," among other things. Dodgen's general manager Vickie
Heckman said she could not find any records of payments to the
airport, nor did she received invoices when they were requested
from Administrator Brown.
The accountant, Scott Miller, told investigators that Blair's
priority was payroll, and that Blair decided which bills to pay
after the payroll was run.