Mojave Spaceport: 24 Months of Inaccurate Financial Reports

mojave_tower_sunset_smBy Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Mojave Air and Space Port’s former Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Erika Westawski, provided officials with 24 months of inaccurate accounting reports before resigning abruptly last month on the eve of a delayed audit, spaceport CEO and General Manager Stu Witt said on Tuesday.

The investigation into the inaccurate financial reports and Westawski’s sudden departure is continuing, Witt told the spaceport’s four directors during its monthly meeting. The independent auditors of Lance, Soll and Lunghard have been retained to review accounts, and a more detailed report is expected for the April board meeting, he added.

Witt introduced Mike Brouse, a former public-sector CPA, as the interim CFO.  Brouse has helped the staff to implement new back office procedures and daily checks so the airport district can keep a better watch on its finances, Witt added.

Brouse said he retired in 2012 from his position as assistant superintendent for business services of the Panama-Buena Vista Union School District in Bakersfield, Calif. He said he would be working with the airport at least until June.

Westawski suddenly resigned in mid-February on the evening before the start of an audit that had been delayed from October. Sources report that Westawski had cleared out her apartment in Tehachapi before her resignation.

In a statement last week, spaceport officials said that the initial investigation by Lance, Soll and Lunghard showed that the airport district “remains financially viable and solvent.” Officials did not elaborate, but they did say they are coordinating their investigation with local law enforcement officials.

“The Board of Directors Chairman, District Counsel, KCSO [Kern County Sheriff’s Office], and Kern County District Attorney’s office are briefed daily as discovery surrounding the situation continues,” the statement read.

Board member Al Peterson thanked members of the airport staff that have been working to reconcile the financial accounts. He also apologized for the airport board’s “less than stellar performance” in overseeing the district’s finances.

Board President Dick Rutan said the board of directors is in the process of forming a permanent finance committee to strengthen oversight.