By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Former Tupelo Regional Airport Executive Director Terry Anderson has filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer on the grounds that it violated his First and 14th Amendment rights.
Joining him in the lawsuit against the Tupelo Airport Authority is former operations director Reid Dawe.
Anderson was fired in December 2009 by a 3-1 vote by the authority. The board said it had lost confidence in Anderson, who had held the post for nearly 10 years.
Dawe resigned in August, shortly after he was demoted to maintenance technician.
“They’re asking for their jobs back and damages,” said Tupelo attorney Jim Waide, who filed the suit on their behalf. The monetary damages are unspecified.
John Hill, the authority’s attorney, said he had not seen a copy of the lawsuit and could not comment.
Anderson and Dawe say their First Amendment right to free speech and their 14th Amendment right to due process have been violated by the authority.
Anderson supported an extension of the airport’s runway that involved interfering in some way with a main artery through town, West Jackson Street Extended.
Some concerns about a closing, even a temporary one, of the road brought vocal opposition by some residents and businesses, echoed by some board members.
In the suit, Anderson said the authority fired him because he spoke to the media. He said the authority should have given him a verbal warning for his “minor” comments.
He also claimed age discrimination in the suit. Anderson, 64, was replaced by current director Josh Abramson, who was 33 when he was hired in April.
Anderson has described the leadership of the airport as a “train wreck” and alleges the authority has abused executive session privileges, some of its members have ethics violations, that the airport-owned fixed-base operator, Tupelo Aviation Unlimited, has overcharged for its services and that taxpayer money has been wasted.
Waide said Anderson had gone to the City Council after his firing to share his concerns, to no avail.
“He never criticized the board members publicly before he was fired,” Waide said. “After he was fired, he tried to get the council to reconstitute the airport authority.”
Last May, after he and Anderson met in a closed-door meeting with the council and its attorneys, Waide said his client would be forced to file a lawsuit if changes weren’t made at the airport.
Contact Dennis Seid at (662) 678-1578 or firstname.lastname@example.org.