Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Panel scrutinizes Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport (KBTR) director salary as national search begins

Changing the pay range for the next director of the Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport might turn out to be more difficult than some search committee members thought.

City Hall officials have grappled in recent months with how to address low salaries for high-profile public positions that often cannot compete with employee salaries in the private sector. As a search committee has formed to look nationally for the next aviation director, questions have risen about whether a $129,254 cap on the salary for the person who runs the Baton Rouge Airport is high enough to attract quality candidates.

The pay range for the position starts at $77,528.

At the first search committee meeting Nov. 21, airport Commissioner Cleve Dunn, Jr. said he would like to see the director's salary more in line with the city-parish chief administrator officer salary. Recently hired CAO Darryl Gissel is paid an annual salary of $149,155.

"The person we're going to hire is somewhere working," said Johnny Fife, an airport commissioner and search committee member. "In order to get that guy, we need to know where he needs to be salary-wise and can we afford it?"

But the search committee lacks authority to change the salary range. That's something that has to be done by the Metro Council.

Councilman Trae Welch, a search committee member, voiced concerns that a committee recommendation to the Metro Council for a salary increase would become a cumbersome process.

City-parish employees are also on a pay scale. As they gain experience working for the city-parish, they usually ascend the pay scale into higher salary ranges. Hiring someone at the maximum $129,254 salary means they have no room for a future payraise, Welch said.

Councilwoman Barbara Freiberg, who is also on the committee, said members should consider whether it makes sense to hire an airport director under a contract rather than as a city-parish employee.

Committee members also weighed in how to write the job description for the aviation director, which currently calls for a bachelor's degree and major course work in public and business administration along with two years of supervisory experience. Some questioned whether the job ad should request training from an aviation college.

Longtime Airport Director Anthony Marino announced more than a year ago that he was retiring. Since then, his second-in-command Ralph Hennessy has taken over the duties as interim director.

Local leaders sparred over whether to hold a national search for the next airport director after many praised Hennessy's interim leadership and some said he had proved that he deserved the permanent job. But Freiberg led the charge to hold a national search. She said Hennessy might still be a top candidate but it was a matter of best practices.

Hennessy attended the first search committee meeting, prompting questions from Councilwoman Chauna Banks, who is also on the search committee. Banks said it seemed inappropriate for Hennessy to attend the committee's meetings when he was going to be a candidate for a job.

Freiberg and Welch responded by telling her that the meetings are open to the public.

Original article can be found here ➤

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