Sunday, January 20, 2013

Fayette County Airport Authority chairman tenders resignation: Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport (KVVS), Connellsville, Pennsylvania

The Fayette County Airport Authority (FCAA) chairman has submitted his letter of resignation, just two days after the board agreed to layoff the airport manager.

 In the brief letter delivered to the county commissioners on Friday, Terrence “Tuffy” Shallenberger gave no explanation for his departure from the board, only that the resignation was effective immediately and that he appreciated the opportunity to serve on the board.

“It was a very brief statement,” said attorney Charles Watson, Shallenberger’s legal counsel. “(Shallenberger) did not give a reason for leaving, but I believe there were several personal reasons for him doing so.”

Watson declined to speculate whether the decision was in any way connected to the board’s action Thursday to lay off Mary Lou Fast, who had served as the airport manager since September, 2008.

In a 4-1 vote, Fast’s contract was terminated. The three-year agreement was to expire in October.

FCAA board member Fred Davis said Saturday that he had not been officially notified of the resignation.

“(Shallenberger) is a businessman and with a lot of interests, so I’m sure he had his reasons,” said Davis. “The airport has been there since 1939, so I’m sure it will go on with the efforts of people who volunteer.”

Davis said that no meetings have been scheduled to address the manager’s position. A replacement for Shallenberger would be at the discretion of the Fayette County commissioners, he added.

Shallenberger has served on the board since 2005 and reappointed to a five year term in 2010. He could not be reached for comment Saturday.

Davis said that he agrees with Matt Thomas, FCAA vice chairman, that “temporary help” is needed at the airport until the managerial issues have been resolved. However, there has not been any discussion with FCAA board members Myrna Giannopoulos or Jesse Wallace.

Giannopoulos, board secretary, said Saturday, that while she anticipated Shallenberger’s resignation, she had not been contacted by him or any other board member regarding his decision.

She tied his resignation to “some discontent” at the airport, but declined to elaborate on the matter.

“There are a lot of things going on,” she said.

While Commission Chairman Al Ambrosini has offered to send his administrative assistant to the airport to do some clerical work on an interim basis, Giannopoulos said that she is willing to take on some of the duties, if needed.

As to whether Shallenberger’s resignation will prompt an exodus of other members, Giannopoulos said that she has no intention of resigning at this time.

“I’m staying,” she said. “I have every intention to serve out my term.”

Commissioner Angela M. Zimmerlink has called for a special meeting to be held Wednesday for the commissioners to meet with the FCAA and discuss the matters.

“Rumor of forced firings, outside influences and resignations, replacements already chosen coupled with FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) findings, require discussion with the FCAA authority members and the solicitor,” said Zimmerlink in a statement issued Thursday afternoon.

Giannopoulos said that she has not received any information from Zimmerlink regarding a meeting. She indicated that the authority board will have to convene to discuss its next steps.

“We’ll get together,” she said.


Thursday, January 17, 2013:   Fayette Airport Authority lays off manager -- Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport (KVVS), Connellsville, Pennsylvania  

The Fayette County Airport Authority voted 4-1 Wednesday night to lay off airport manager Mary Lou Fast and to terminate her three-year employment contract.

 Authority member Jesse Wallace voted against the furlough just moments after members returned from a brief executive session.

“I‘m not going to be a part of this,” Wallace said.

After the meeting, Wallace said he did not think Fast should be furloughed because “she is a good employee.”

“I would like for her to stay,” Wallace added.

Fast declined to comment on the layoff, which is immediate and indefinite.

Mark Shipley, an employee of Aviation Network, an airport tenant that transports transplant patients and organs to various hospitals in the Northeast, talked to Fast after the meeting.

“You have been the best employee this airport has had,” Shipley said as he hugged Fast and wished her good luck in her future endeavors.

Fast had been employed as airport manager for more than four years. Her original two-year contract was extended to three years. She was completing the third year of her contract, which was scheduled to expire in October.

Three of the authority‘s five members agreed to allow Fast to collect her severance package. Authority solicitor Gretchen Mundorff said the authority members could not discuss the details of the severance package.

Authority members Wallace, Myrna Giannopoulos and Terry Shallenberger voted in support of the severance package. Two members, Matt Thomas and Fred Davis, abstained from voting.

Authority members declined to comment on why Fast was laid off, but they indicated that the stress level at the Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport has been very high recently. They would not comment on rumors that several authority members were considering the possibility of resigning.

Fayette County Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink attended the meeting but did not address the authority or make any comments.

In other business, Mark Shipley of Aviation Network asked the authority to consider entering into a commercial lease for space his company has been renting at two smaller T-hangars. Shipley said his company has been renting the smaller hangars for several months because it needed additional space. Aviation Network has a commercial lease for a larger hangar and office space.

Mundorff was directed by authority members to draft new leases last year. The leases were completed in December, but only 15 of the 40 tenants have signed them.

Russ Jones of PennDOT‘s Bureau of Aviation said the Federal Aviation Administration requires the authority to have written leases.

If the mandated leases are not in place, Jones said, the authority could be in jeopardy of losing federal funding.

In a recent audit, the FAA listed the leases as one of the findings the authority needed to address.


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