It took two motions, but Tuesday the Crow Wing County Board accepted Rick Adair’s resignation from the airport commission.
Board members previously stated they preferred Adair resign from the commission while he served as interim airport manager because of the conflict of interest as the commission oversees the manager’s post. Adair offered to take a leave of absence, but commissioners did not think that was enough separation.
Administrator Tim Houle said there was a clear conflict of interest.
In his Jan. 5 letter to commissioners, Adair stated he would like to be reinstated to his commission seat once his work as interim airport manager was completed.
In previous discussions, the board considered an option of holding the seat open. Houle told the board there has been interest in the airport commissioner’s seat with Adair’s resignation.
Commissioner Phil Trusty said he’s received interest from the Oak Lawn Township Board and asked if someone would be assigned to the airport temporarily. Adair’s term goes through Jan. 1, 2014. Houle said there isn’t a provision for a temporary appointment.
Commissioner Rosemary Franzen said she was concerned that without appointing someone else, Adair would continue to fill the position. Houle countered by saying once Adair resigned, he was no longer serving just as someone couldn’t be compelled to stay at their job once they quit.
Commissioner Paul Thiede’s motion to accept Adair’s resignation died for a lack of a second. Houle said there wasn’t a formal need to accept the resignation and the county really doesn’t have a right to say no. Thiede said if the board accepts the resignation it solidifies it to say he can’t be forced to serve. A board action in that fashion could not trump an ordinance, Houle said. “It would not accomplish the desired result,” Houle said.
“If involved in a lawsuit I’d rather stand on the action of the board rather than the vagueness of the ordinance,” Thiede said. “Our intent is clear if we accept the resignation.”
After further discussion, Trusty made the motion to accept the resignation. It passed with one no vote from Franzen.
Franzen said she was in favor of the resignation but said she didn’t want any strings attached. “I want to make sure it’s done right,” she said.
The subject of the airport took up much of the board’s agenda Tuesday. Houle provided a recommendation to the board in the morning that the county continue to fund the airport even if the city of Brainerd did not in an effort to minimize disruptions to the traveling public.
The city and the county jointly own the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. Houle said the county had not received any formal notice from the city that it had resumed funding. At the Brainerd City Council meeting Jan. 17, the council noted the airport commission Chair Andy Larson’s attendance at the meeting met the requirements the council set when it put a hold on funding. When Houle was informed of that in the afternoon, he said it left the board’s discussion moot.
In his recommendation to the board Tuesday morning, Houle also requested the airport commission retain counsel to advise them whether or not they violated the open meeting law and, either way, to ensure they follow the open meeting law in the future.
“It is something we, too, share an interest in making sure it is complied with to the best of their ability,” Houle said. Houle also recommended the airport commission retain counsel to provide a single source of sound advice for the complex area of employment law.
The airport commission did retain counsel in Dyan Ebert, who represented the commission at the Jan. 17 Brainerd City Council meeting.
“I’m also suggesting that the attorney that they would retain would examine the agreement with Mr. (Steve) Sievek to see if there are any irregularities that would be a concern to the airport commission,” Houle said.
Commissioner Paul Thiede questioned how having the county fund the airport if the city didn’t met the ordinance provision for equal funding. Houle said there was precedent with the state shutdown and filling the gap for funding with the likelihood of getting reimbursed. Thiede expressed concern for the county getting money back if it provided the funding and the city didn’t, saying the city held back the funds in order to force the issue.
“To be honest with you, if you don’t think there’s an issue, you haven’t read the paper,” Trusty said.
Trusty said, for an example, if the highway department was in disarray, the county would keep funding road maintenance.
The city council and county board will meet in a joint session to discuss airport issues on Feb. 7 at the Land Services Building. “I think there is a lot more to discuss than the makeup of the airport commission,” said Commissioner Rachel Reabe Nystrom.
Board members said they would like to have the airport commission chairman and interim manager present at the joint meeting.
Any motion on Houle’s funding recommendations was tabled until the Feb. 7 meeting.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.