Bob Thomas: Shut down the Airport Authority and start over

As a fixed-base operator at our airport for the past 33 years, and as the father of the Carson City Airport Authority, and as a citizen of Carson City, I herewith call for the resignation of every current member of the Airport Authority.

The handling of the Yvon Weaver affair has been a disgrace. She has been an excellent airport manager for over 15 years and is the victim of a carefully orchestrated plot on the part of three board members to replace her with a new manager, to be handpicked behind the scenes by the same three members. For the first time in its history, our airport is being politicized. Who is spearheading this effort? Supervisor Richard Staub, who serves on the Authority Board, possibly in violation of one of its governing statutes. More on that later.

The Airport Authority came into existence in 1989 as a result of my having been a legislator. The airport was an albatross around the necks of our mayor and supervisors. Citizens never phoned our officials to tell them how much they loved the airport. All phone calls were complaints. So, I contacted Mayor Teixeira and outlined a plan for an airport authority to manage the airport, and be the buffer between our elected officials and the public. He agreed.

To make a long story short, I wrote the legislation creating the Authority and Supervisor Bennett and I lobbied our bill through the Assembly (by one vote in committee) and the Senate. The Carson City Airport Authority was officially born. Since then, our airport has been 100 percent self supporting. It exists entirely by the rents we lessees pay, fuel tax overrides, the personal property taxes collected from aircraft, and FAA grants. It has been superbly managed.

Now, to keep our airport from being politicized I established the following requirements: 1) Seven members serving staggered four year terms. No member may repeat serving until he or she has been off the board for four years. 2) The make-up of the board will be: Two fixed base operators who run aviation businesses on our airport, two manufacturers who have aircraft based on our airport, one pilot at large - need not own an aircraft but must be a licensed pilot, one citizen at large, and one city employee appointed by the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors. Currently this is Richard Staub. All members must be residents of Carson City.

The reason for this make-up is to minimize the possibility of any one group or business gaining advantage over another, and to keep the management oversight mostly in the hands of people who understand aviation and airports. Efficiently run airports are not suited for majority oversight by citizens at large or political appointees. It might be different if we had millions of dollars income from airline operations and slot machines but we don't!

Getting back to violating an Airport Authority statute, our Board of Supervisors have appointed not one, as the statute calls for, but two city employees on the Board. Supervisor Staub is one and Walt Sullivan is the other. This was done on a sleazy technicality. Sullivan isn't considered an appointee by the mayor and supervisors as is Staub. They show Staub as the "citizen at large." But he is still a city employee, in violation of the intention and the spirit of the statute! How do I know? I wrote the damn thing!

Now, Walt Sullivan is a man of the highest integrity who also served on our original board back in 1990 when I was chairman. But in this present case, not only should he not have been on the board as long as Staub is, he cannot be his own man, completely independent in his voting because he works indirectly for Staub. Talk about a prescription for mischief.

In the 19-year history of the Airport Authority Board there has never been this kind of a problem until the appointment of Steve Lewis (Sterling Air), who is now chairman. It is a known fact that he has been agitating for the replacement of Yvon Weaver as our airport manager for years. And member Hutter, for some strange reason, is in concert with Lewis. Richard Staub is the other member out to get Weaver. He intends violating her contract without cause.

The "three" will probably say it's because Neil Weaver, Yvon's husband, is also on the Airport Authority and he operates a fixed-base aircraft restoration business, thus creating the appearance of a conflict of interest. But in 15 years there has never been a suggestion by anyone that Neil Weaver's business has in any way benefited from Yvon being our airport manager. Moreover, serving four different Authority Boards she has never had a single negative performance review.

I strongly suspect there have been many violations of the spirit of the open meeting law in this and other airport matters. No, I don't know of any clandestine meetings with a quorum present but telephone polling is an easy way around that. Personally, I'd like to see a public hearing on this entire affair, with testimony under oath.

Additionally, the Board of Supervisors should forthwith suspend the Airport Authority Board and rehire Yvon Weaver as acting airport manager " if she will return " to continue running the airport until our new mayor and supervisors can reconstitute the Airport Authority Board, at which time the new Board will then address the task of hiring a permanent airport manager. It's time to clean house.

P.S. The idea that Carson City's airport needs a full-time manager is preposterous. Yvon Weaver is on airport premises five days per week out of the same office where she manages Weaver Aircraft. Airport business comes first. We've had a full-time manager on a part-time salary and ours is the most efficiently run airport in Nevada.

- Bob Thomas, of Carson City, is a former Nevada legislator.


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