Airport director terminated, commissioner resigns

Published 11:46 pm Tuesday, June 19, 2018


NATCHEZ — The Adams County airport’s director has been fired and one airport commissioner resigned following concerns over conflicts of interests with certain commissioners.

Now the airport’s former Director of Aviation Ron Hall said the commission voted in a split decision Tuesday to terminate him immediately, though Hall said he would not comment any further at this time. Officials have not confirmed a reason for Hall’s firing.

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Airport commissioner Tom Borum — one of the commissioners around whom the potential conflicts of interest centered — informed the commission Tuesday that he would resign, said Scott Slover, Adams County Board of Supervisors attorney. Slover added that Borum has not officially sent in a letter of resignation to the supervisors.

On Monday, the topic regarding the controversy at the airport came up at the supervisor’s regular meeting, when District 4 Supervisor Ricky Gray asked Slover if the situation had been handled.

Slover responded that a conflict with two commissioners, which were unnamed at the time, had been resolved, while a conflict with one could not be resolved, meaning that commissioner would have to resign.

The next day, board of supervisors president Calvin Butler said the commissioner’s chair, Gary Holloway, had recently sold his interests in a plane that had been involved in doing business with the airport, therefore eliminating the conflict.

Commissioner David Gaude had also sold his portion of a plane that had also been reserving hangar space with the airport, District 1 Supervisor Mike Lazarus said.

But Borum, who is longtime private pilot and flight instructor, Lazarus said, did not wish to do as his airport cohorts and instead resigned.

A Mississippi Ethics Commission Opinion dated Feb. 2, 2018, states that “members of an airport commission may not have a prohibited interest in contracts which are authorized by the airport commission during their term of office or within one year thereafter.”

Although the Ethics Commission redacted from its public record who sought the opinion, a source close to the situation said it was an Adams County supervisor, who did so at Hall’s prompting, though perhaps without the airport commission’s knowledge.

Slover cited the advisory opinion as clearly marking the boundaries of what commissioners are unable to do.

As for Hall’s firing, Slover, Butler and Lazarus all distanced the supervisors from the decision and said the commissioners alone were in charge of making that call. Although the supervisors appoint the commissioners, the airport commission is a separate entity in charge of overseeing all factors regarding the airport’s operations, Slover said.

Longtime commissioner Theodore Johnson said he did not vote in the matter and deferred any further comment to Holloway, who did not return calls from The Democrat requesting an interview.

Though the exact cause of the friction between some of the commissioners is unclear — as is who exactly voted for the termination — Butler said Slover had advised him to avoid hearing from either side in case Hall appeals the decision to the supervisors.

“If they’re appealing to the board of supervisors … I want to get everybody’s side of the story at the same time,” Butler said.

Still, Butler said he is unsure an appeal to the supervisors is possible, reiterating that the commissioners are independent and that the county is not meant to “micromanage” their decisions. If that is the case, any appeal might have to go to a court of law, Butler said.