General Mitchell airport director fired over potential ethics violation

Posted at 3:45 PM, Sep 14, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-15 16:16:09-04

MILWAUKEE -- Ismael Bonilla, Director of Milwaukee's General Mitchell International Airport, has been fired amid an investigation over allegations that he violated the county's ethics code.

Bonilla allegedly shared private information with former colleagues that benefited them financially.

County Executive Chris Abele announced the firing Thursday in a written statement.

“The mere suggestion that the integrity of the procurement process was in question anywhere in County government would be a serious cause for concern,” Abele’s written statement said. “In order to ensure confidence in the airport’s operations, I have made the decision to bring in new management. We will also implement comprehensive, formal re-training on procurement procedures at the airport.”

Milwaukee County Department of Transportation Director Brian Dranzik will serve as acting airport director for the time being.

TODAY'S TMJ4 received a redacted report conducted by the Audit Services Division.  It was given to the County Board of Ethics.  The investigation surrounds a $250,000 contract at Timmerman Airport. According to the report, the former director arranged for Hanson Professional Services Incorporated to visit Timmerman about a proposed business plan before the bids were made public.

Bonilla had prior relations with Hanson and the county hired Hanson to come up with a business plan for Timmerman.  Three other businesses were vying for the same job, but never got the chance to visit the airport.  

Bonilla declined our request for comment.

The report also said other complaints against the former airport director included alleged abuse of a county purchase card, personal use of a county vehicle and hiring his best friend as the airport's deputy director. 

Bonilla started working at Mitchell in February 2016.  According to a report, complaints of misconduct about the director started coming in six months later.