"Business as usual" at Charlotte airport after director resigns - | WBTV Charlotte

"Business as usual" at Charlotte airport after director resigns post

Jerry Orr Jerry Orr

"There will be no disruption of service at Charlotte, and we will continue business as usual at this airport," interim aviation director Brent Cagle said on Friday, as he explained how he's working to calm fears about his transition to power at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Thursday was a whirlwind day for the airport, where the newly passed airport authority law found itself in a holding pattern in court and former airport director Jerry Orr with a new title, but no job, for now.

WBTV was at Orr's home just before 8 p.m., where Orr confirmed that he was now "Executive Director" of the Airport Authority.

Under the new law passed by the state Senate on Thursday that created a new airport authority to manage the airport, Orr's job with the city was immediately terminated when the bill was passed.

He immediately assumed the new role of executive director of the airport authority.

City Manager Ron Carlee sent a memo to airport authorities saying that since Orr was no longer an employee of the city, he was appointing Assistant Aviation Director Brent Cagle as acting director of the airport.

Cagle says he's met with all three shifts of the airport's employees.

"They need to focus on maintaining the operations at the airport," Cagle said. "The legal wrangling that's going on right now is not their focus. Their focus should be on the mission of the airport and they understand that and they're prepared to do that."

Carlee – who's only been on the job himself for a few months – told WBTV in a press conference on Friday that Orr himself may have been grooming Cagle as his eventual replacement.  Obviously that was before Orr's abrupt departure last evening. 

Nonetheless, Carlee claims that Cagle has earned Orr's respect over the year.

"It's no surprise to anyone that Jerry Orr has talked extensively over the past few years about possibly retiring one day and I've talked to him about transitions and who he would look to to provide leadership at the airport," Carlee said.  "In all of those conversations, Jerry has pointed to Brent."

US Airways issued a statement late Thursday evening say the company was "disappointed" over the ownership dispute with the airport.

Company Spokeswoman Michell Mohr says US Airways is not so much concerned with who owns the airport as it is with how it is managed.

"We urge the parties to resolve this dispute and get back to the business of ensuring the airport continues to be run in the future as efficiently and effectively as it has been in the past."

Just four hours before, a Mecklenburg County judge issued a temporary restraining order against the creation of a regional airport authority to take over the Charlotte Douglas International Airport from the city.

The judge's order came hours after the State Senate gave its final approval to the bill that will transfer control of the Charlotte Douglas International Airport from the city to an independent airport authority.

A hearing over the new law is scheduled for July 29.

City Attorney Bob Hagemann says the city will maintain control of the airport while the approved legislation is tied up in court.

At a press conference Thursday afternoon, Hagemann cited four main reasons for the lawsuit: The bill in the legislature was incorrectly filed, bypassing the governor's authority for approval, the city's credit rating could be put into jeopardy, the transfer of control was made without FAA approval and the move lacks compensation for the city.

"The City of Charlotte is disappointed in the partisan manner in which the General Assembly has adopted an authority bill to take the Charlotte Douglas International Airport away from the City," the city said in a statement. "The Charlotte City Council repeatedly cautioned the General Assembly about unintended consequences that could result without conducting proper business analysis and review of best practices. It is therefore the responsibility of the City to intervene through the courts."

"I wish we would have never gotten to this point," NC Gov. Pat McCrory said in Charlotte on Thursday. "I didn't want to get to this point."

When asked about the upcoming legal battle, McCrory said, "Let's see how it happens. I have no idea what the legal ramifications are but let's do it, and let's find out soon."

Jerry Orr seemed put off Thursday afternoon by the idea of city lawsuit. ""I don't know that [this fight] is over. I never liked to be in court."

Sen. Malcolm Graham, D-Mecklenburg, on McCrory: "Obviously I wish the governor would have played a greater role right from the very beginning. Within the last two weeks he has been trying to work behind the scenes to make things happen but his help was needed right from the very beginning."

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