Latest airport turbulence could have been avoided
The Mesa County commissioners have every right to decide who represents the county on the Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority, and to remove those they don’t want representing them. What we object to is the manner and timing of their demand that Airport Authority Chairman Denny Granum resign.
If those words sound familiar to readers, think back to January of a year ago, when these same commissioners fired then County Administrator Chantal Unfug with no notice to her or the public, and barely any explanation of their reasons.
That’s pretty much how they handled Granum’s forced resignation — first with a phone call from County Administrator Tom Fisher to Granum just before Christmas, then a decision to delay his resignation until next month, followed by an email from Fisher to Granum Tuesday, saying the commissioners had reconsidered and wanted his resignation immediately.
Initially, there was no reason given for the dismissal, although commissioners later said it was because Granum was recusing himself from important votes, and they want somebody fully engaged on the board.
However, coming as it does in the midst of an FBI investigation into the management of the airport, the forced resignation may have left people with the impression that Granum could have been involved in the federal investigation.
But there has been no evidence to date that such is the case, either in information released by the FBI or by the members of the Airport Authority team conducting its own investigation.
To be sure, both entities have been tight-lipped about what has been found in their respective investigations. We wish the commissioners would have made clear their reasons up front. By failing to do so, they have done a disservice to a man who has long served this community well in a variety of capacities, from the Airport Authority to the Grand Junction Economic Partnership and its predecessor organization.
County Commissioner Rose Pugliese may be correct that a wholesale shakeup in the membership of the Airport Authority, and a change in direction of that group, is necessary following the tenure of Rex Tippetts. He is the former director of aviation for the airport, who was fired by the Airport Authority last month. Tippetts is believed to be a possible targe of the FBI investigation, although it’s not clear why he was fired.
But those changes could — and probably should — wait until there is more news from the FBI and the Airport Authority about exactly what problems occurred and what must be done to remedy them. Adding to the turbulence at the airport now will only harm public confidence in the airport.
The commissioners have both a right and a responsibility to ensure they have effective people — and people they want —representing the county on the Airport Authority. However, they could have handled the dismissal of Granum more effectively, without raising public suspicion about him.