Airport keeps its man, for now
Lone manager finalist Johnson takes interim role
The Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority on Tuesday appointed the lone finalist for the airport manager’s job to the post on an interim basis, while also saying it would address concerns about its search process.
Ben Johnson, the operations manager for the airport, agreed to the interim job after board Chairman Steve Wood said the board would “offer the opportunity for Ben to serve as interim manager.”
Johnson said he would take the job on “for a while.”
The board left open the possibility of removing the “interim” from his title by saying the appointment would be good for up to six months.
“That forces us to make a decision,” board member Sam Susuras said.
The board also took note of a letter it had received from a Colorado Press Association attorney chastising it for failing to adhere to the requirements of the Colorado Open Meetings Law in connection with the way the search committee operated, especially in failing to notice and hold open meetings to draft job requirements.
The committee, which included Johnson, received 64 applications and interviewed one finalist, who ultimately turned down the job.
At that time, Johnson resigned from the committee and offered himself for the job. He was announced as the lone finalist for the post earlier this month.
Four people, including an airport tenant, a former airport board member and a member of the board’s finance committee, all spoke in favor of Johnson’s appointment at the beginning of the board meeting.
Some qualified candidates might have passed on applying for the job because of the issues surrounding the airport — an FBI fraud investigation, inability to obtain FAA grant funding, and a half-built administration building — said Bill Marvel, the airport tenant.
Johnson “doesn’t have to worry about entering the hornets’ nest,” Marvel said, “Because he lives in the hornets’ nest every day.”
Amy Jordan, who has served as the interim chief since the suspension and eventual firing of Rex Tippetts as director of aviation, will return to her regular duties as assistant manager.
The board in the meantime will consider how to respond to the press association letter, Wood said.
The manner in which the board conducted its search, Wood said, was on the advice of legal counsel.
The subject of the search came up as the board heard from Benjamin M. Wegener of the Grand Junction law firm of Younge and Hockensmith, who offered local representation at an hourly rate. The board agreed to bring the firm on board, but only after Wood inquired of Wegener: “How brushed up are you on Colorado Open Meetings laws?”
The investigation that led to Tippetts’ dismissal is continuing, though there have been no arrests.