Airport board chairman was asked to leave, official confirms
Denny Granum was asked by the Mesa County Commission to resign from the Grand Junction Airport Authority, but was never told why, the longtime board member and chairman said Friday.
Though Granum said in an interview that being asked to leave the board by the commissioners doesn’t bother him — he was appointed by them and they have every right to remove him at will — he didn’t appreciate the timing.
It comes on the heels of a major FBI and U.S. Department of Transportation investigation into possible financial wrongdoing at the airport.
“Because of what’s going on at the airport, I really didn’t feel it was appropriate at this time to get into a battle with the commissioners relative to me staying on the board,” Granum said. “I thought, in the best interests of the investigation, that I should go along with their request.”
But asking him to do so now — so soon after the board fired its director of aviation, Rex Tippetts, and in the wake of that federal investigation of possible financial fraud — makes it appear that Granum is somehow involved, he said.
Granum had hoped to put it off for at least another month, something he thought the commissioners had agreed to.
“They did not give me a reason,” Granum said. “I still, right now, do not know why this came about. What bothered me about it was the timing. It’s as if I did something wrong and I didn’t. Over the last year, I’ve spent probably 90 percent of my personal time on helping solve the airport problems that we’ve been going through, and it hasn’t been easy.”
Granum said he first got a call from Commissioner Steve Acquafresca on Dec. 18, the day after the airport board decided to fire Tippetts, in part because Granum abstained from voting on that termination. Granum said he did so on the advice of airport attorneys because he had served on the seven-member panel since May 2006, six months after Tippetts was hired, and was closely involved in the work he performed there.
The reasons Granum was asked to leave really are simple and in no way a reflection on the work he’s done on the board, Acquafresca and Commissioner Rose Pugliese said, adding that the airport board needs “all hands on deck” right now.
Granum’s decision to abstain on Tippetts and any matter related to the federal investigation made him less than effective in helping the board get through this issue and move forward, Acquafresca said.
“One of the primary responsibilities of board members is to oversee the operations of the airport, and I believed that Denny was not in a position to do that entirely,” Acquafresca said. “Denny’s been an exemplary board member, and has really served us well. But I thought it was time to thank him for his years of service and think about a replacement.”
Pugliese agreed, adding that she wanted to see Granum depart now, rather than in February, because of the month-long vacation the 72-year-old Granum is planning to take with his wife to Hawaii next month, a trip that he’s been planning for more than a year.
“I’m never going to fault anybody for going on vacation or working on their business or whatever it is that they’re doing, but there are some serious things going on,” Pugliese said. “It’s not just showing up at a meeting. It’s a lot of extra meetings and talking with staff and other things. The county as a whole would be better served to be able to fill that position now and have somebody ready to go in February who’s up to speed on what’s going on. I don’t see why waiting another month would make that much of a difference (for Granum.)”
Both commissioners said they would like to see Granum’s replacement be someone who understands financial matters and government budgets. It’s all the better if that person understands airport operations, but that’s not necessarily a prerequisite, they said.