More OneJet questions
A number of questions arise following a Post-Gazette story detailing the number and identities of investors allegedly snookered by OneJet.
OneJet was the heavily publicly subsidized business-oriented passenger air service that was forced into Chapter 7 liquidation in late 2018 by a handful of private investors. The highly touted airline began service to Pittsburgh International Airport in 2015. But by late last summer, it more resembled a flounder washed up on a beach.
The Allegheny County Airport Authority, the county Redevelopment Authority and the state Department of Community and Economic Development had ponied up about $3 million in public dollars. And it appears that nearly all of it likely will not be recoverable from the turnip that OneJet turned out to be.
But far more money is owed to private investors – “a who’s who of Pittsburghers,” is how the P-G characterizes them.
We’ve repeatedly raised the question of what kind of due diligence was performed by government agencies to vet the financial wherewithal of OneJet. What was the process? Who did it? Was it done at all?
But the release of the list of private investors begs a few more questions. What kind of due diligence did they perform?
Granted, a second, larger lawsuit by investors alleges OneJet’s principals misled them about the airline’s finances. But a number of those investors were, for lack of better phrase, “money people” – bankers, corporate executives and even UPMC Children’s Hospital. Did they assume too much? Did they accept at face value OneJet’s claims?
And an even larger question comes into play here: What, if any, influence did those private investors have on government officials to turn public money into venture capital dollars?
Did that influence play any role in government failing to perform its due diligence? Was it the proverbial blind leading the blind? Or did those government agencies fail on their own? Either scenario should raise eyebrows.
More questions – very serious questions — are being raised about the OneJet fiasco on a regular basis. And the need for a top-to-bottom review grows stronger.
As we’ve noted before, and will continue to note, that’s a job for the state Attorney General’s Office, which, per statute, has auditing purview over the Airport Authority.
And everything must be on the table, from how recipients of public dollars are vetted, to past conflicts of interest by authority board members, to the plenary power of authority CEO Christina Cassotis to grant subsidies in any amount, to what outside entities might be having undue influence on the operation of the Airport Authority.
Such a major public policy “fail” demands an exhaustive review. Until that happens, there will continue to be more questions than answers.
Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (firstname.lastname@example.org).