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Flying wild

Flocks of birds have endangered planes at some airports. At Little Rock National, the threat is from clouds of currency, flung like paper airplanes by Airport Director Ron Mathieu. Can the FAA control him? Little Rock city government certainly hasn't.

Mathieu was caught last year — by the press, not his supposed superiors — forking over $40,000 of public money for a football field carpet at a private church school his son attended. When this oddity was exposed in print, Mathieu first lied to the Airport Commission, trying to cover up the expenditure as advertising, then hid behind a subordinate, Tiajuana Williams, who stepped forward and said the transaction was her responsibility and part of an Internet marketing campaign. The buck moves downward at LRNA. (Williams, who is in media relations, had first said the report of the expenditure was erroneous.)

The Arkansas Times has now learned that Williams received a 3 percent pay raise this year, bringing her up to $99,060. While other organizations, public and private, are laying off p.r. employees in a troubled economy, flackery has never been better at the Little Rock Airport. Williams also got a $3,000 bonus in 2010.

She is not the only Airport employee to get a raise or bonus or both at a time when other public employees are doing without. Deputy Executive Director Bryan Malinowski got a $5,000 bonus last year and a 3 percent pay raise this year. He now makes over $156,000.

State employees, some at poverty level, are getting no raises this year. All told, 139 Little Rock Airport employees are receiving raises, and many of them already make $100,000 or more. The payroll at LRNA looks like the one at UAMS.

As the Times reported earlier, Malinowski and Mathieu combined to amass more than a quarter of a million dollars in expense-account charges over a 12-month period. First-class air travel, meals in Paris, limos — these fellows wouldn't let Little Rock look cheap, whether Little Rock wanted to or not. Mathieu himself didn't get a pay raise this year, the media having forced a smidgen of restraint on the Airport Commission, and is struggling to get by on only $180,000, the second highest salary of any city employee. There seems to be a lesson here — lying still pays pretty well — but it's not one we want the youngsters to learn.

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