Herald-Whig

Council eyes rebuke of top official, decision on airport

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Michael Kipley 1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Sep. 7, 2018 5:55 pm Updated: Sep. 7, 2018 8:15 pm

QUINCY -- Aldermen will have big decisions to make Monday, with a planned vote of no confidence concerning Director of Administrative Services John "Skip" Bright and a choice between hiring a company to oversee Quincy Regional Airport or hiring a new airport manager.

Mayor Kyle Moore declined to discuss the upcoming vote on Bright, who has overseen most of Quincy government's day-to-day operations since May 2017.

On Aug. 20, Bright was accused by Alderman Tom Ernst, R-3, of insubordination for sending a message to former airport manager Terrance Ward that called Ernst "obstructionist" and suggested that Ward limit one-on-one communications with the alderman. Bright was responding to Ward's concerns that Ernst was trying to manage him and the airport with frequent calls or other contact. Ernst was chairman of the Aeronautics Committee at the time, but resigned from that position at the Aug. 20 meeting.

Closed session meetings were held later that night and one week later to discuss the situation. Ernst requested the motion of no confidence on Monday's agenda.

Corporation Counsel Lonnie Dunn said the director of administrative services is appointed by the mayor and "serves at the pleasure of the mayor." Dunn said there is nothing in city code that would give the City Council authority over that position.

"A vote of no confidence is a parliamentary procedure where a legislative body can express a lack of faith or confidence in somebody. It would be advisory. It would not be binding upon the mayor," Dunn said.

"I'm sorry I responded as I did" when Ward asked for direction, Bright said.

Bright said Ernst's animosity toward him began long before he responded to Ward's complaints.

"On the day he voted against my appointment, he said, ‘You know what this is about.' I didn't know then, and I don't know now," Bright said.

Bright went through a performance review with the mayor about six weeks ago and said there were no negative findings.

Ernst could not be reached for comment on the no confidence motion.

Airport choices

Moore said several members of the City Council told him they're not comfortable with the Aeronautics Committee's recommendation of turning management of the airport over to Aero Management Group, which already has the contract as the city's fixed base operator. In order to offer another alternative, Moore said an applicant for the airport manager's position is listed on the City Council agenda as a prospective appointee.

Moore said the former airport manager was looking for ways to save money and improve efficiency when he recommended privatizing the airport.

Ward had a salary and benefits package of $123,000.

Aero Management Group offered to do the job for $78,000 in the first year with annual increases of 3 percent or the rate of inflation if it is higher over the five-year contract. Part of the AMG proposal also would require the firm to offer jobs to the four city employees now at the airport. The city's total salary package for the four employees now is $319,500. But if any of the four wish, they could bid for other city jobs through the union. There are four vacant positions at Central Services.

"If they do not select that firm, they will be asked to hire a full-time airport manager," Moore said. "That appointment will also be on the agenda."

Sandra Shore, who is airport manager in Lebanon, Mo., is Moore's choice if the City Council does not want to hire Aero Management Group. He said if Shore is approved, she will start with a $67,000 annual salary.

The airport manager decision was prompted when Ward gave notice he would soon be called to active duty in the Army Reserve. When the city started seeking airport manager applicants, officials also looked at the benefits of hiring a management company with administrators who have FAA Part 139 certification, which is important at airports with commuter flights involving large planes or jets.

Shore was one of two airport managers brought to Quincy for interviews. She has Part 139 experience from a previous job as airport operations specialist at the Veterans Airport of Southern Illinois in Marion.

Moore said Shore had been through the vetting process with the city and with the FAA.