Airport authority lawsuit going to trial

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Former Tupelo Regional Airport Executive Director Terry Anderson, who claims his firing 16 months ago violated his right to free speech, will get his day in court next year.
A trial before Judge Michael Mills in Oxford is scheduled for June 4, 2012.
Anderson, along with former airport operations director Reid Dawe, filed a federal lawsuit in January, claiming their First and 14th Amendment rights to free speech were violated by the Tupelo Airport Authority.
Anderson also claims age discrimination.
In December 2009, Anderson was fired from the job he held for nearly 10 years by the authority, which said it had lost confidence in him. Dawe resigned in August 2010.
Attorneys for the authority said last month that the men’s claims were without merit.
In his lawsuit, Anderson said he was fired because he spoke to the media about his concerns regarding an airport runway extension project. Anderson supported a plan that would have altered or moved West Jackson Street Extended. He said that option was the safest and most economical way.
But, Anderson claimed in his lawsuit, certain authority members were angered by his opinion “since those members had personal and business interests in preventing the closure and relocation” of the street.
Dawe said he resigned because he was upset at his “outrageous demotion and by the attempts to keep Tupelo citizens from knowing about the operations of the airport.”
Both men have asked to be returned to their former jobs at the airport, as well as for actual damages to be determined by a jury and “reasonable” attorneys’ fees, costs and expenses.
The authority has asked the court to dismiss the claims and for Anderson and Dawe to pay for all costs.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or dennis.seid@journalinc.com.