Grievance filed in airport director’s firing

Published 12:01 am Saturday, June 23, 2018

NATCHEZ — A grievance filed Thursday against the Adams County Airport Commission alleges that commissioners illegally terminated Director of Aviation Ron Hall and calls for certain commissioners to resign.

The grievance — filed with the Adams County Board of Supervisors by Ocean Springs attorney Paul Koerber — claims Hall’s firing was unjust and resulted because Hall acted as a whistleblower regarding potential “illegal improprieties” to prompt a Mississippi Ethics Commission investigation into the airport commission. Whistleblowers are protected under state law from any negative employment actions, such as firing.

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In February, the ethics commission returned an opinion that said airport commissioners may not be employed by an airport vendor, buy fuel from the airport commission or lease hanger space from the commission.

That opinion, however, did not make its way to airport commission chair Gary Holloway until late last month, according to the grievance filed. The document then alleges that Hall’s termination came as “a workplace reprisal and retaliatory action” and violated the Mississippi Code of 1972.

Further, the grievance says no disciplinary actions against Hall existed before the ethics commission’s finding.

“To the contrary, Mr. Hall had been lauded for his having obtained approximately ($1 million) in grants, including funds from the Federal Aviation Administration for the enhancement of the airport, its equipment and its services,” the grievance states.

Finally, the grievance demands that Hall be reinstated immediately and calls for the resignation of any commissioners who have violated statutes as relates to the aforementioned ethics opinion.

The commissioners whom officials had referenced in terms of potential conflicts of interest are Holloway, David Gaude and Tom Borum. Though Holloway and Gaude resolved their issues by selling their stakes in airplanes that had done business with the airport, Borum instead chose to resign, officials said.

Holloway said he has been advised by legal counsel not to speak on the matter, only speaking on behalf of the commission to reaffirm their goal of progress.

“All of us just want to see our airport grow and our airport do well,” Holloway said. “This commission is passionate about that airport.” Holloway would not comment on how Hall’s termination came about or who specifically voted for the termination. The vote took place Tuesday in a closed, executive session. Though Holloway would not comment on the firing, commissioner Theodore Johnson has said he did not participate in the vote.

Attorney Scott Slover, who represents both the airport commission and the Adams County Board of Supervisors, said he had received the grievance and still needed to speak to both his clients about how to proceed as of Friday afternoon.

Though the document appeals to the board of supervisors to make a decision, Slover said he is still unsure about the legality of a county board mediating another independent body’s personnel decision.

Attorney Paul Koerber could not be reached for comment.