OXFORD – Former Tupelo Regional Airport Executive Director Terry Anderson will not get his day in court against his former employer.
Friday, a federal court judge threw out Anderson’s lawsuit against the Tupelo Regional Airport Authority.
Anderson sued in early 2011, claiming he was fired because of his age and that the authority violated his First Amendment right to free speech.
The lawsuit was due to go to trial Oct. 21 before Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. Mills.
Anderson was hired in 2000 when he was 54.
Four years later, when the TRAA board began to consider extending the runway, Anderson gave interviews and spoke with reporters at the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal about the project, chiefly in its support, although some board members had reservations.
In later conversations in 2009, Anderson questioned the board’s decisions and later claimed he was not the source for one article about the disagreements.
Anderson was fired by the authority in December of that year by the authority, which said it had lost confidence in him.
On the issue of age, Mills wrote that the court “sees no valid argument whatsoever that age was a cause of his termination.”
Authority members questioned Anderson’s truthfulness and loyalty, which the court says are difficult to reconcile by his emails to a board member and to the Daily Journal.
The judge noted he’s not surprised that if Anderson complained about board members, at whose pleasure he serves, he found himself out of a job.
Mills also notes that it’s not difficult to believe that once the board knew about Anderson’s media contacts, its members “would have genuinely lost confidence” in him.
Anderson shows no proof, the judge states, that his emails to the media were a motivating factor in his termination.
Jim Waide of Tupelo, Anderson’s attorney, expressed disappointment with the decision, especially Mills’ remarks about his client’s truthfulness.
“Terry Anderson is one of the most honest and forthright people I’ve ever known,” Waide said soon after the order was released Friday.
He insisted that Tupelo’s airport and residents are the losers with Anderson’s termination.
John Hill, an attorney representing the airport authority, said Mills’ 27-page decision “speaks for itself.”
“This has been a long, strung-out public dispute,” Hill said, adding he hopes the matter is finished.