March 07--1111Stambaugh Aviation, which employs 102 workers to overhaul commercial jets, has been leading the opposition of some tenants at the mainland airport and McKinnon St. Simons Island Airport to the governing airport commission and its executive director, Steve Brian.
With another major tenant, Gulfstream Aerospace, which completes the assembly of corporate jets at the mainland facility, and the Georgia Department of Transportation siding with the airport commission, the lines have been drawn.
Much of the focus in the feud has been on Brian.
Now Glynn County Commissioner Bob Coleman has entered the dispute, saying he wants Brian dismissed, after Stambaugh has threatened to move its operations to Florida -- an action the county commission may or may not have authority to do or to direct anyone else to do it.
The county commission -- which approves appointments to the airport commission made by the Brunswick-Glynn County Development Authority -- has called a special meeting for 2 p.m. March 14 to discuss the dispute between the airport commission and airport tenants. Brian is a hired staff member, and not a member of the airport commission.
He did not immediately return a telephone call to his office for comment Wednesday.
Coleman says he thinks the way to resolve the dispute is to have Brian removed.
"Steve Brian, in my book, is history," Coleman said. "I'm concerned about 100 jobs leaving the county, because of one guy."
Coleman says he was upset about a newspaper advertisement paid for by supporters of the airport commission and Brian, lauding their performances. He says the ad was intended to send a message to county commissioners.
"If they think for one second they will intimidate me, as a commissioner, they're wrong," he said. "I think it's extremely unprofessional for them to try to intimidate the county commission."
Marie Dodd, a former airport commission chairwoman whose name appeared in the ad, says the ad was intended to clear up misinformation about the issue, not to intimidate anyone.
"I thought people needed to know the truth," she said. "The airport commission takes no money from Glynn County. They pay their own way."
In fact, Dodd says Brian has played an important role in bringing nearly $54 million in state and federal funding to operations and improvements at the airports.
Dodd says the ongoing dispute is "ridiculous, and it's going to cost Glynn County money."
County commissioners may vote to fire Brian, but it may be more difficult to remove him from the job than a majority vote, she said.
"They may try it and they may do it. Legally, I think they're way off base," Dodd said of any action the county commission could take on Brian. "I would almost characterize it as a witch hunt."
County Commissioner Clyde Taylor says the tenants dispute ultimately will be decided by the airport commission.
"If a new airport director is needed, I would not be in favor of the county commission making the decision," he said.
"I think it would be a mistake for the county commission to make a decision that was not supported by the airport commission and the development authority. I'm going to vote against directing anyone to fire Steve Brian."
Nathan Sparks, executive director of the Brunswick-Glynn County Development Authority, says he had not heard about next week's meeting for county commissioners to discuss the airport commission and Brian. The meeting agenda was not posted on the county website late Wednesday afternoon.
Sparks says the development authority has a say in the airport commission's decisions regarding real estate, budget and appointing new members. But it's the airport commission's responsibility to make hiring and firing decisions.
"That wouldn't be our place to do that," he said of the development authority. "We would certainly be concerned about changes done without proper process."
Coleman says county commissioners have been criticized for not taking an active role to protect the 102 jobs that could leave the county if Stambaugh owners follow through with their threats to relocate to an airport at Jacksonville.
Selection of airport commissioners to fill the two vacant positions is also on hold until direction is provided from the county.
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