Conflict: Clearing the Air

Filed in Just In by October 16, 2019

AT the September Council meeting Cr Sue Abbott asked a question about any conflict of interest with the airport sub-committee and proposed redevelopment of Scone airport, which was met with indignation by Mayor Wayne Bedggood who exclaimed he was “personally affronted” by the simple question.

Cr Abbott explained it was a question she had been asked by several residents and she was simply seeking clarification.

Ross Pay, who sits on the airport sub-committee, owns and operates Pay’s Air Service at Scone airport and will be loaning warbirds to the proposed new museum, took a far more open and sensible approach when scone.com.au asked him the same question.

“When all of this originally started, I was enquiring if I could buy a block of land on the airport to build a hanger and turn it into a museum,” said Mr Pay.

“The Council went from there and did a whole masterplan and I think the guys who did the masterplan thought a museum there would be a good idea and did a feasibility study to work out how many people they could bring to the town, so hopefully the airport pays its own way, but also bringing money into the town, shopping and staying,” he said.

From that point, Ross Pay explains, the Council decided they would build and own the museum, but initially they wanted someone to operate the museum and called for expressions of interest.

“The only time I thought there was a conflict of interest was initially (when) Council put out expressions of interest for someone to operate the museum and stock it with aircraft and so I applied for that,” said Ross Pay.

“I was the only one that applied, but at that stage I was going to have to run the museum so every time it was discussed at the committee meeting I declared a conflict of interest,” he said.

“Then it evolved that Council was going to be running the museum, so all I would be doing was supplying the aircraft at no financial gain; I didn’t see that as a conflict of interest, so that’s where it begins and ends,” he said.

“I’ve been on boards before and I know what it’s all about and when I thought I had a conflict I declared it and even after that I didn’t take part in any votes and the committee didn’t decide if the museum was going ahead,” Ross Pay said.

Ross was clear his only involvement with the proposed museum now, is that he will loan his warbirds to be on display at the Council owned and operated museum and he will not receive any money for loaning the planes.

As one of the most notable restores of warbirds in the southern hemisphere, Ross Pay, is also encouraging other owners of warbirds to display their aircraft at the museum, for which they will not receive any money either.

Councillor Maurice Collison, who chairs the airport sub-committee said at the September Council meeting he believed potential conflicts were “certainly handled in the right manner” and explained all committee members were users of the airport, much like the saleyards committee.

Ross Pay confirmed the other members of the committee were also people operating businesses at the airport and said he believed all airport users stood to gain from the airport being upgraded.

“The committee is an advisory group and it’s just Council advising us as airport users and us telling them if we think an idea is good or bad, but we don’t have any affect on the result,” he said.

“The impact will affect all users,” he said.

“I also believe the museum will benefit all of the other operators on the airport, because like I said before someone comes along and they think I can learn to fly with Air Speed Aviation, or I’ve flown and my plane breaks down and there’s East Coast Aircraft Maintenance and they can fix my airplane or service it, so I think it benefits everyone,” he said.

“I don’t really compete with either of the other two guys on the airport, my thing is fire fighting, we’ve dabbled in a little bit of corporate charter, but we don’t really compete with Ben (Ben Wyndham, who runs Airspeed Aviation) or Bill (Bill Owen who runs who runs East Coast Aircraft Maintenance), so I don’t feel like there is a conflict at all,” he said.

“But it is a bit upsetting when people accuse you of something, when there is no basis,” Ross Pay said.

There has also been speculation that Matthew Clark, who is president of the Scone Aero Club and is a builder may have a conflict of interest, a matter he was also pleased to clarify.

“I’m a builder I was fortunate enough to win the tender to build the White Park arena and I did that,” said Mr Clark.

“But when it comes to the airport, I’d love to do the airport works here, but I deliberately stayed out of the expressions of interest for the construction of the building (museum and terminal), because I’m on the airport committee and I’m the president of the Aero Club and when the expressions of interest came out for the local trades and builders (for hangers and other construction works) again I deliberately stayed out of that, because again, I don’t want to be caught up with that side of anything,” Matthew Clark said.

Matthew Clark was also keen to put Ross Pay’s perceived conflict into perspective, emphasising Ross would have no financial gain from the museum, but also pointing out how Ross has used his own warbirds to benefit the local community, such as for the fly overs on ANZAC Day.

“Every time he does that as a donation, there is no money for doing that and to fly a mustang or a kitty hawk is about $3,000 an hour for each aircraft, times up to three or four aircraft just to do aircraft,” he said.

“When Ross cops flack over conflict of interest, or what’s in it for him, there are things like that he does for the community,” Matthew Clark said.

scone.com.au was pleased to sit down with Ross Pay and Matthew Clark to discuss the perceived conflicts of interest on the Airport Sub-committee and go on the record for the whole community to hear. It is a pity the Mayor did not take the same open and accountable approach when the question was asked in a Council meeting and his emotive response certainly did no favours to Ross Pay or Matthew Clark in addressing the issue.

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