• Former aviation director asks judge to dismiss city's lawsuit over airport control

    By: Linzi Sheldon

    Updated:

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. - On Tuesday, both sides in the battle over control of Charlotte Douglas Airport filed a flurry of legal papers.

    The city filed an amended request for an injunction after the General Assembly followed up its passage of a bill giving control to an airport authority with a new bill that gives control to an airport commission.

    The new, second bill repeals the first one and leaves ownership of the airport with the City of Charlotte, as well as bonds.

    Three of the several issues brought up by both sides were security, constitutionality, and the approval of the Federal Aviation Administration.

    The city says giving control to a new commission "jeopardizes the successful security protocol" at the airport and puts passengers and the public at risk.

    The commission's new head, former Charlotte Douglas Airport Aviation Director Jerry Orr, said in court papers filed Tuesday that "no aspects of the transition will jeopardize the safety of the flying public."

    The city also argued that the bill isn't constitutional because, it says, the bill should have been a general bill instead of a local one, which does not need the governor's signature.

    But Richard Vinroot, tapped by Orr to represent him as the head of commission and the commissionitself, said there have been dozens of airport-related bills passed by the General Assembly that were local bills.

    The city said the airport commission conflicts with the FAA's laws. The FAA issues operating certificates to airport operators. But Vinroot and one of his law partners, Martin Brackett, said there's no transfer needed because the ownership of the airport stays with the city. They also said they are prepared and willing to work with the FAA to satisfy whatever steps it deems necessary.

    "I think there's a little bit of -cry wolf here," Vinroot said.

    The court filings also included a letter dated July 23 from Jerry Orr to Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee, written in the wake of the first airport bill.

    State lawmakers passed that bill the afternoon of July 18. Carlee stated he received a letter from Orr saying in part "my employment by the city...terminated...," because Orr was now executive director of the newly-created airport authority.

    In the letter, Orr asks the city to continue providing services to the airport in the transition phase.

    But at 3:50 p.m., a judge issued a temporary restraining order to halt any move to an authority, initially for 10 days.

    That evening, the city told Orr it interpreted his letter as a resignation and appointed a new aviation director, Brent Cagle.

    On his letter dated July 23, Orr said he didn't resign or retire, and sent the letter as a "courtesy" and calls it a "draft" to give Carlee time to prepare.

    He wrote: "I am fully available and anxious to immediately resume this position."

    Carlee wrote in sworn statements filed Tuesday that an attorney advised him since Orr was officially accepted the position as head of the airport authority, he effectively terminated his position.

    But only three days after that letter was sent, Orr was appointed head of the airport commission that was created in the state's second airport bill.

    His attorneys said they hope Thursday morning's hearing before a judge will allow the commission, which has Orr at its helm, to move forward.


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