Mayor, county appoint members to airport commission

Mayor, county appoint members to airport commission

Mayor, county appoint members to airport commission

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by STEVE HARRISON / The Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on October 1, 2013 at 9:54 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 1 at 10:24 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The newly created Charlotte Airport Commission is now complete, after Charlotte Mayor Patsy Kinsey and Mecklenburg commissioners Tuesday appointed the last four members to the 13-member board.

Kinsey made two selections to the commission, which will likely hold its first meeting this month.

Whether or not the commission will operate Charlotte Douglas International Airport is still undecided.

The Federal Aviation Administration last week said there were conflicting opinions as to whether the commission is part of the city or a new separate entity. Unable to make a decision as to who should hold the airport’s operating certificate, the FAA asked that a Superior Court judge determine exactly what the commission is.

In August, Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin said the FAA should decide who should hold the operating certificate.

It’s unclear when Ervin will reconsider the case, though commission attorney Richard Vinroot said last week he hopes it’s “within weeks.”

Kinsey selected insurance executive Cameron Harris; Aaron McKeithan Jr., a west Charlotte neighborhood leader and retired health care technician; and Joan Higginbotham, a former NASA astronaut and current director of community relations at Lowe’s.

Higginbotham is married to City Council member James Mitchell, who lost the Democratic mayoral primary last month to Patrick Cannon.

Mecklenburg commissioners selected Randy Freeman, chief executive and owner of Freeman Mortgage Services.

The airport commission has five members from Gaston, Iredell, Union, Lincoln and Cabarrus counties. The City Council had previously named four people to the board.

The commission would be the airport’s governing body, responsible for hiring and firing the executive director, as well as approving long-term plans.

Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee said Monday he is conducting an audit of some airport operations, including finance. He said outside consultants will review Charlotte Douglas finances, in part to prepare for a possible transition if the FAA gives the commission the OK to run the airport.

One point of contention between the City Council and former aviation director Jerry Orr was over how the airport accounted for tax-exempt bonds used to build a new runway and other projects last decade. The Internal Revenue Service had questioned the airport about its accounting methods, and city officials said mistakes had been made in how money had been spent.

The aftermath was that the city placed tighter financial controls on the airport in April 2011.

Orr was named by the General Assembly as the new executive director of the commission. He hasn’t worked at the airport since July but is still being paid.

“I don’t know what we will find exactly,” Carlee said. “We are looking at everything, top to bottom.”

He added: “What’s the status of the book? Let’s get all of that on the table. If there are things we aren’t doing right, let’s figure out what they are.”

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