CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A livid Charlotte City Council member called the chairman of the Airport Advisory Committee a “chump” Wednesday and said Shawn Dorsch should be fired from the post for undermining the city.
Republican Andy Dulin said he was furious that Dorsch has given legislators “talking points” about the benefits of transferring Charlotte Douglas International Airport from the city to an independent authority – a move the city opposes.
In addition, Dulin said he is upset about a report in Wednesday’s Observer in which Iredell County board chair Steve Johnson said Dorsch assured him that neighboring counties wouldn’t be impacted by a bill being considered in the General Assembly. The assurance helped convince Iredell County and other neighboring counties to support the effort to remove the airport from Charlotte control.
The Airport Advisory Committee is usually a rubber-stamp group for aviation director Jerry Orr. But during the controversy over the airport, Dorsch has become a focus of the city’s frustrations.
Mayor Anthony Foxx stopped short Monday of removing Dorsch, saying it would only feed into stereotypes that the City Council is meddling into airport affairs.
“Once I remove this person from this board, the very next day the message will be: ‘See this is why we shouldn’t have the City Council monkeying around with the airport,’ “ Foxx said. “That is why this is an impossible situation.”
Dorsch was first appointed to the committee by former mayor Pat McCrory, who is now governor. He was reappointed by Foxx.
Dorsch, who is president of the Carolinas Aviation Museum, couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.
While Foxx declined to remove Dorsch, council members unanimously voted to ask the entire committee to meet with council on April 22. Council members are likely to question them as to why they are working outside the chain of command.
Foxx said it’s OK if an advisory committee member believes the airport should be run by an authority. But he said the group’s job is to advise airport staff and the City Council, which hasn’t been done, Foxx said.
“The violation here is end-running the board,” Foxx said.
Commissioners in Union, Iredell, Gaston and Lincoln counties recently expressed support for legislation in Raleigh to wrest control of the airport from the city of Charlotte and give it to a regional airport authority. Cabarrus County is likely to consider a resolution of support next week.
All of those counties would get to appoint someone to an independent, 13-member regional authority board under the legislation.
Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee said Wednesday he was stunned when he read that neighboring counties were supporting the authority.
“They have had no communication with us,” Carlee said.
He added that he believes the authority, as currently proposed, would hurt the airport.
“If the authority goes through in this form, the airport will be in jeopardy,” he said. “There has not been a comprehensive analysis.”