By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
Info:Correction Date: September 26, 1996
The Jean Rich Story, Getting Richer
I would like to congratulate and personally thank New Times for having the courage to publish the article regarding my family name and Rich International Airways (RIA), a subject that appears to be taboo for the Miami Herald ("The Last Flight Plan," August 29). Whereas other responsible journalists and publications have in fact been putting out articles regarding the safety and maintenance issues involving Rich International for over 24 months, the Herald appears to feel that the apparent downslide of a local corporation employing approximately 1000 people on a worldwide level is not newsworthy.
There are a few points I would like to clarify regarding the New Times story. In regard to Jean Rich's decision to enter into a deal with George Batchelor, it was not to get long-range aircraft capabilities; the DC-8s owned by Jean Rich are and were the long-haul aircraft, not the L1011 that was supplied by Batchelor. At the time of my mother's death in December 1991, there was only one L1011 in place. The only reason she entered into this agreement with Batchelor was to bring her aircraft up to federal noise requirements.
With regard to the will reading, it was written in the article that Gary Garofalo, the regulatory attorney, explained "that in order for the company to retain its military contracts -- in light of Jean's death -- it had to show continuity of management." In fact, along with the above, what Garofalo specifically said was that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Transportation would not allow the airline to fly unless it showed continuity in management, and so all the heirs were required to sign the voting trust agreement. Garofalo told my brothers and me not to bother reading the document, as he was, after all, acting on our behalf and would be glad to explain it later. An eleven-page document was presented to my brothers and me already folded to the last page for signing. As soon as he saw that I would not sign this document, Garofalo also retrieved from my brothers the copies he had just given them and told them he would mail them copies of the signed original. To this day at least two of my brothers (Stephen and Michael) and I are still waiting for these documents to arrive.
Regarding (purported corporate counsel) Mark Scheer's remarks that I had not worked at the company for at least a year before my mother's death, I can only assume that Mr. Scheer must have been absent or not paying attention during that period of time, as I was indeed employed by and present at RIA as director of sales and marketing (a point to which I have several hundred employees past and present who would be quite willing to testify). I did in fact spend the approximate last four months of my mother's life at her bedside. If Mr. Scheer needs further reminder of my then-position within the company, he should perhaps reread the settlement agreement, in which my office at RIA was and still is protected under court order (even though they have partially moved corporate offices without ever officially notifying me).
I was accurately quoted regarding my concerns of safety, maintenance violations, and falsification of records; Mr. Scheer's response was "Not only are [Harrington's] charges baseless, they are irresponsible." In view of the fact that the FAA has since investigated and found these allegations plus many others to be true and has now issued an emergency order of suspension and grounded the airline, I can only conclude that if Mr. Scheer was quoted accurately, we are talking out-and-out fraud and/or complete and total incompetence on someone's part.
I would like to use this opportunity to express my sympathy to the many good, hard-working, and honest people at RIA who now find themselves unemployed. I would like all of you to know that I have tried very, very hard to force Bill Meenan to address the issues that have resulted in the suspension of RIA's operating certificate. Upon Meenan's and others' total and absolute refusal to address the issues in question, I was left with no alternative other than to seek the assistance of the FAA in order to ensure the safety of the flying public and the hard-working crews of RIA.
I was instructed by a member of Mr. Scheer's firm that I was not allowed to talk to any employees of RIA. To those of you who have been furloughed, please note -- this restriction no longer applies. I welcome your comments and facts pertaining to the relevant issues along with documentation. My fax number is 305-644-8947.
To those who have previously judged honesty and integrity to be more important than a paycheck, I sincerely thank you from my heart for the information you have supplied to me thus far. In closing, my personal thanks and congratulations to Paula Park for her ability to examine the myriad facets, her ability to arrive at a clear and concise understanding of this situation, and her professionalism in reporting.