Mayor Jack Ellis' spokesman said Tuesday that city airports director George Brown will retire next month for "personal reasons." But Brown wouldn't confirm that, saying he plans on managing Macon's two airports "until I find out otherwise."
"Until I get some idea from City Hall what's going on I can't make any comment," Brown said Tuesday evening, adding that he needed to speak to Ellis' spokesman, Ron Wildman, about the situation.
Told this, Wildman reiterated the mayor's position: "The mayor of the city says George Brown said he would retire on January 15."
Brown recently established a company called American Aviation Group Inc. Asked about the business last week, Brown would not answer questions. He did say that, at some point, running the business and being airport director might set up a conflict of interest he'd have to deal with.
But it's not known whether that venture has any bearing on Brown's reported retirement.
Brown and Ellis' relationship has been tense lately, according to some city hall employees. Last week, Brown revealed to City Council members that the Transportation Security Administration and Federal Aviation Administration had security concerns at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport, which he manages. The two entities sent the city a letter listing 27 citations. The problems ranged from "less serious" to "very serious," TSA spokesman Christopher White said last week, but the precise nature of the problems has not been revealed because of security concerns.
Asked if the airport citations had anything to do with Brown's employment status, Wildman reiterated that the retirement was for personal reasons. Wes Stansell, administrative officer for the city, said Tuesday evening that Brown had not been fired and said the administration had no further comment on the matter.
Brown has managed the city's airports since early 2004. He has overseen an overhaul of Middle Georgia Regional Airport, the larger of the two, at a cost of more than $6 million in federal funding. Because of upgrades, the airport has gone from a Category IV to a Category III airport, a designation that allows larger flights.
But Brown's tenure also has seen cuts in flights at Middle Georgia Regional Airport. The city's lone passenger carrier, ASA, now operates two flights to and from Atlanta daily - half of what it used to offer. The city recently got a federal grant to woo another airline, or to persuade ASA to offer a route to another city, but that program hasn't gotten off the ground yet. City Council members questioned Brown repeatedly before accepting the grant, often complaining that he didn't have all the answers they felt he should.
Last week, when the TSA and FAA citations were revealed, council members also were upset to find Brown had not run all of the airport's contracts through the city attorney's office.
Wildman said that, after Jan. 15, Brown might be brought in as a consultant if he is needed.
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