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Who airport manager answers to becomes a source of debate
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Robert Bratcher, left, and Jimmy Haley are pictured at the county’s Economic and Agriculture Development Committee meeting. - photo by Bethany Porter
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Keith Bouldin

A power struggle between the Warren County Memorial Airport Commission and the county executive has caused problems at the airport.

Former airport manager Riley Tindall resigned at the beginning of the month, and Airport Commission chair Keith Bouldin told the county’s Economic and Agriculture Development Committee they have been having problems with Tindall for a while.

A large problem was that the manager did not know who he answered to. A resolution from 1947 implies the Airport Commission has full control of the airport and airport management. 

“We are kind of frustrated right now,” said Bouldin. “What’s happened is the airport manager we had didn’t think he worked for us. He thought he worked for the county executive. Whenever pilots would have trouble out there and they would say I need to talk to someone over you, he would tell them to call Jimmy Haley. So we are just needing to clarify where we stand on this.” 

Bouldin told the committee about an incident that happened in November where Tindall traveled to Florida for an Aviation Transportation Association convention and used $2,300 from the airport budget to do so without notifying the Airport Commission. Bouldin said workers were at the airport one morning to do work on the fence and Tindall was not there. 

Bouldin texted him and found out he was in Florida and he had gotten permission from County Executive Jimmy Haley and finance director Justin Cotten. 

“I texted back and said I think we have a severe misunderstanding about who you work for and who hired you. You work for us as an Airport Commission and we were appointed by the County Commission to run the airport and I said you should have talked to us about this trip and gotten our permission to go and we will discuss this when you get back,” said Bouldin.

Bouldin said Tindall texted back saying this was something the board needed to take up with the county because he is a county employee and took the proper channels to go on this trip. Bouldin went to Haley’s office and met with him and Cotten and asked if they approved him to go on the trip.

“Of course, we as a commission weren’t happy that money was taken out of our budget for an employee to go on a trip to Florida that we didn’t know anything about and didn’t give any approval for,” said Bouldin. “Of course, Jimmy’s answer to me was that he was a county employee and I understand that, but we just didn’t think that was right that the money was taken out of our budget.”

Bouldin says they want to work with Haley, but they cannot have a manager that does not do anything they ask him to do and that they have detailed some of the safety issues Tindall would not address. 

“One of the questions I asked Jimmy that day was Riley is not really doing a good job and we might have to terminate him and he told us we couldn’t do that,” said Bouldin. “I said well we hired him and I feel like if we hired him and he is doing a bad job we ought to be able to terminate him and again he told me to talk to the county attorney, which I did.” 

Bouldin said county attorney Robert Bratcher informed him he could fire the airport manager provided he made proper documentation.

Said Bouldin, “I really didn’t want to bring all this out, but we feel like the manager is not listening to us, wasn’t listening to us and I know he has resigned, but we are all business people and we give up our time to try and make the airport the best place we can, but we feel like we are being undermined. We just want some clarification.”

Haley said he was unaware the airport manager needed permission from the Airport Commission to go on a trip because he is a county employee and it was in his budget that comes from county finances. 

Haley also stressed he’s not trying to undermine anyone’s authority.

“Never have I said do not answer to the Airport Commission,” said Haley. 

Bratcher says the Airport Commission could only instruct the airport manager by making a vote and Carl D. Bouldin asked if they would have to make a vote for him to fix a gate.

“That is why you have a director there to handle day-to-day operations and the commission isn’t an oversight there,” answered Bratcher.

“That was our problem. The gate went three months and didn’t get fixed and the beacon didn’t get fixed and nothing was getting done. That was the problem,” said Keith Bouldin.

Carl D. Bouldin said the Airport Commission needs to write out a complete job description for their commissioners and when a new director is hired they will need a full job description as well. He also said county officials will need to write a new resolution determining everyone’s role in the partnership between airport and county.