Judge tosses Anderson lawsuit against airport authority

Court NewsBy Patsy R. Brumfield
Daily Journal

OXFORD – Ex-Tupelo airport chief Terry Anderson will not get his day in court against his former employer.

Today, a federal court judge threw out Anderson’s lawsuit against Tupelo Regional Airport Authority.

Anderson, the facility’s former director, sued in 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 some of those conversations, Anderson questioned the board’s decisions and later claimed he was not the source for one article about the disagreements.

Anderson was fired, then filed his lawsuit.

On the issue of age, Mills wrote that the court “sees no valid argument whatsoever that age was a … cause of his termination.”

The judge noted that he’s not surprised that if Anderson complained about board members, at whose pleasure he serves, he found himself out of a job.

Board members also 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.

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 today.

He insisted that Tupelo’s airport and citizens are the losers with Anderson’s termination.

• Read more in Saturday’s Daily Journal.