Tupelo airport authority asks for separate trials

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – The Tupelo Airport Authority has asked that a lawsuit filed against it by two former administrators be separated.
Former airport Executive Director Terry Anderson and former Operations Manager Reid Dawe together filed a federal suit in January, claiming their rights to free speech were violated by the authority.
Anderson was fired in December 2009 after the board said it had lost confidence in him. Dawe resigned last October, but said he was forced to take a pay cut and pressured into quitting.
A trial before Judge Michael Mills in Oxford is scheduled for June 4.
Attorneys for the airport authority filed a motion to have separate trials for Anderson and Dawe, arguing the men don’t have identical claims. But their attorneys on Tuesday asked the court to deny the motion.
In his lawsuit, Anderson claims he was fired because he spoke to the media about his concerns regarding an airport runway extension project that conflicted with personal and business interests of some board members, and that at age 64 he was also a victim of age discrimination.
Dawe said he resigned because he was upset at his “outrageous demotion and by the attempts to keep Tupelo residents from knowing about the operations of the airport.” He said the board thought he was helping Anderson in his discrimination case as well as getting documents for him.
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.
In their filing Tuesday, attorneys for Anderson and Dawe said their claims against the airport authority are “not only logically related. … but are in fact inextricably intertwined. The claims manifestly arise out of the same series of transactions surrounding the runway extension, Anderson’s termination, Dawe’s actions in support of Anderson and Dawe’s resulting constructive discharge.”
Separating the lawsuit into two trials “would require witnesses to be deposed twice, called to trial twice and other needless repetition.”
dennis.seid@journalinc.com