SACRAMENTO, Calif. --
Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson is calling for a review of travel expenses by Sacramento Airport Director Hardy Acree to make sure they adhere to the county's guidelines, based on details uncovered by KCRA 3 Investigates.
Acree's latest trip took him to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for a three-day conference. According to the official program, the conference featured speeches about the status of the air travel industry, a golf tournament, racecar rides and a gala dinner. Acree said he attended the dinner, but did not play golf.
Documents obtained by KCRA 3 show Acree has spent more than $65,000 on travel and lodging over the past two years. He outspends counterparts at the airports in Fresno and San Francisco, traveling -- sometimes in business class -- to destinations such as Buenos Aires, Shanghai, Tel Aviv and Manchester, England.
About half of Acree's travels are related to his membership in Airports Council International, a trade group for airport executives. At a recent meeting in Texas, ACI named Acree as its North American chairman.
Acree insists ACI is a serious lobbying organization and that being a member has given Sacramento a seat at the table in shaping national and international travel policy.
"I see it as a responsibility of the county airport system and I, as the director, to represent Sacramento County airport systems on a world stage," Acree said.
When asked for specific benefits, Acree cited a tax status change for which ACI lobbied and which Congress approved. The change allows Sacramento and other airports to save money when they issue bonds for borrowing.
Meanwhile, videos posted online show ACI meetings are about more than just business. They often include opportunities for socializing, sightseeing and sporting events.
Acree's travel expenses come from airport fees -- meaning everyone who's flown, parked or had lunch at the Sacramento International Airport foots the bill. That budget is separate from the county's general budget but still overseen by the county board and the county's top administrator.
"To have an airport director not travel would be fairly bizarre, since their entire industry is to travel," said County Executive Terry Schutten who says he personally signs off on Acree's international travel and recently accompanied Acree on the trip to Texas.
In an email sent to KCRA 3, Dickinson said he sees "both tangible and intangible benefits" to Acree's involvement with ACI. However, Dickinson has also asked "that only the most necessary travel be undertaken by Mr. Acree and that any perks be foregone."
Copyright 2009 by KCRA.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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