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September 27, 2013

Airport Board goes into executive session, issues warning to manager

VINEMONT — Folsom Field airport director Bob Burns was apparently the subject of an executive session Thursday concerning complaints written about him by personnel board members.

Following new and old business discussions, the Airport Board elected to go into executive session, citing good name and character of airport manager Bob Burns in reference to recent complaints the personnel board filled against him.

The personnel board is comprised of airport board members Cullman Mayor Max Townson and county commission Chairman Kenneth Walker, who allegedly wrote the six complaints against Burns in an effort to allow the board to approve purchases and make changes before decisions were made. Burns said all the complaints were inaccurate.

“I received a written warning from the personnel board which was a list of complaints against how I run the airport,” Burns said. “I responded to it and that’s how it stands right now.”

In Burns’ response to the complaints he received, he wrote, “Not only were your statements inaccurate, but they were personally condemning without facts. Remove this written warning no later than (9/26/13) from my personnel file or it will require me to take action.”

In closing of the written warning to Burns, the personnel board reported that the airport has been over budget in three of the last four years including 2013. Records obtained by The Cullman Times show the 2013 budget was for $1,107,960 and the actual expense was $1,081,437. Another complaint alluded to property negotiation done by Burns without the board’s approval, where Burns cited the board’s approval on the negotiation as well as a grant approval. The written warning  ended stating: “Any further incidents of this nature will result in changes being made, including but not limited to, changes in management. This is your notice and warning to that effect.”

Walker said in reference to the complaints he and Townson took out against Burns, they do not wish to replace him in the airport manager position, but they do want to be included in decisions the airport makes.

“It’s been going on for several months and it was just a few things that were done that shouldn’t have been done without the board’s approval,” Walker said. “We were just trying to let the certain individual realize that it needed to come through the board before the decisions were made. It will be discussed more in the special-called meeting in November. Bob will be the manager of the airport, we don’t have anyone else in mind. The board just wants to be informed before decisions are made and it’s never been that way.”

 When asked directly about the complaints and why Walker felt they were a bigger issue in comparison to other airport decisions in the past, he said he would rather not comment on it at this time.

Townson did not return the calls made by The Times before deadline.

 “I always go over the financial report before each meeting with the personnel board in case they want anything explained or to add or subtract anything,” Burns said. “I always keep them informed, that’s they way I run the airport.”

Lauren Estes can be reached at laurene@cullmantimes.com or 256-734-2131, ext. 137.

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