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posted: 5/21/2020 5:10 AM

PR firm owner declines Chicago Executive Airport contract renewal amid controversy

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  • Insight PR, the Chicago Executive Airport's public relations consultant, would have received about $60,000 under a one-year contract extension. But the owner of Insight removed his company from consideration Wednesday.

    Insight PR, the Chicago Executive Airport's public relations consultant, would have received about $60,000 under a one-year contract extension. But the owner of Insight removed his company from consideration Wednesday.
    Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 

Chicago Executive Airport's public relations consultant removed his company from consideration for a contract extension Wednesday night after Wheeling officials expressed concerns earlier this week about his business relationship with the facility's board chairman.

Insight PR, which is owned by Cody Rogers, was included in Chicago Executive's 2020-21 budget that received approval from Wheeling and Prospect Heights, the airport's co-owners. Insight would have received about $60,000 for the second consecutive year.

But the airport board didn't vote as scheduled on the tentative deal after Executive Director Jamie Abbott announced at Wednesday's meeting that Rogers had decided against the one-year extension. Abbott and the airport board complimented Rogers' work over the past year.

Airport board Chairman D. Court Harris and Rogers launched another public relations firm, South Gate Strategies, about five months before Insight PR was founded in March 2019, records show. Insight started working for the airport in May 2019.

Harris did not vote on the Insight contract in 2019 and has stressed airport administrators handled the search process as they do for other vendors. He reiterated the PR contract was another example of "personal attacks" against him by airport critics that have continued for several months.

Abbott said Rogers will end his airport work within 90 days, and it's unknown if another communications consultant will be sought due to declining revenue.

Wheeling Trustee Mary Papantos raised questions about a lack of transparency related to the Harris-Rogers relationship after a Chicago Executive Pilots Association member brought up the issue during Monday night's village board meeting, piggybacking on similar concerns from a village resident and longtime airport critic in April.

Speaking during Wednesday night's airport board video conference, Rogers said it was difficult to withdraw Insight from board consideration for the one-year contract extension.

"It's certainly dispiriting to hear personal attacks and all the inaccurate things that have been insinuated about my character and conduct," Rogers said. "But, frankly, having watched the last year of everything that you all have been subjected to, I think it's pretty much par for the course at this point. So, it looks like there's always going to be a target, and this time it was my turn."

Wheeling Village Attorney James Ferolo addressed the matter during Monday's board session. He said he was informed about the 2019-20 contract after the fact, and, while he did not believe it broke any laws, it "doesn't look good. It doesn't smell good."

Airport board Director William Kearns was among the officials who thanked Rogers for his work, saying it was much better his predecessor's. He also said he was made aware of the Harris-Rogers relationship when Insight's communications proposal was submitted last year and knew the staff would vet it for the board.

"I felt very comfortable going ahead, also knowing there was no financial relationship between the chairman and Cody," Kearns said.

"And I really find it despicable that certain people would make innuendos and insinuations."

Rogers and Harris are former Army officers and West Point classmates. Illinois secretary of state documents list Rogers and Harris as managers of South Gate Strategies, a public relations firm formed as a limited liability company in October 2018.

State records show Rogers registered Insight PR as a limited liability company in late March 2019. Insight received the Chicago Executive contract about two months later.