Griffin’s records sought

The Nevada State Commission on Ethics recently gave Reno Mayor Jeff Griffin until Oct. 15 to turn over records pertaining to his reported sale of the foreign trade zone at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.

Griffin’s past ownership of Nevada Foreign Trade Services and Griffin Transports has been an ethical thorn in the mayor’s side since the airport’s board of trustees awarded him a contract to operate the foreign trade zone in 1997. Since then, the mayor has been brought before the ethics commission several times for his business relationship with the airport. Critics contend that these business interests have been the driving force behind a proposed cargo hub at the airport, to be located in the foreign trade zone, an international duty-free shipping area.

Though Griffin sold NFTS and Griffin Transports in January, the ethics commission is now considering a complaint regarding Griffin’s votes on new appointees to the Airport Authority of Washoe County, the governing board of the Reno airport. A complaint made by Reno activist Guy Felton charged that the appointments were made while the mayor was still receiving money from the sale of the airport-related businesses.

The complaint will be heard before the commission Nov. 8 in a public hearing.

As a member of the Reno City Council, Griffin voted June 26 to appoint former Reno City Councilman Bill Newberg to the Airport Authority. On June 28, as a member of the Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority, Griffin voted to appoint Michael W. Caryl, senior vice president and general manager for Caesars Tahoe, to the Airport Authority.

“A panel has already found that there is just and sufficient cause for the full commission to hold a hearing and render an opinion on these complaints,” said Polly Hamilton, executive director of the ethics commission.

Before the sale of Griffin’s businesses to former NFTS general manager Russ Romaine in January, the ethics commission admonished the mayor to not discuss airport business at the Reno City Council table.

“He should be forced to produce the entire contract for his purported full cash-out from Nevada Foreign Trade Services and financial documents proving that something close to the full market value of NFTS actually changed hands,” Felton said. “The specter exists that Griffin may be receiving payments over an extended period of time.”

Before the sale of his businesses in January, a Reno airport memorandum indicates that Griffin met with airport trustees to discuss abandoning streets in the Rewana Farms area for a potential cargo hub. That area, located adjacent to the southwest quadrants of the airport, is within the foreign trade zone.

According to the mayor’s most recent financial disclosure report, dated March 30, Griffin lists NFTS and Griffin Transports as well as Chasing Rainbows (all listed at the same address, 1095 Spice Island Drive in Sparks) as business entities which he or his family members have had "a direct pecuniary interest" during the past 12 months.