The Charlotte Douglas International Airport commission met for the first time Thursday night, although many members admitted they were unsure how the meeting would be conducted, or if it was even necessary.
The city of Charlotte filed an injunction to block the commission’s powers of control after the law passed, so currently, they are a board without responsibilities.
The commission was created in July when the NC General Assembly passed a law transferring control of the airport from Charlotte City Council to an authority.
Introductions between the 13 commission members and five oversight committee members were made and Robert Stolz, CEO of Wurth Group, was appointed Chairman of the commission.
Up for immediate discussion were the current strains between the city of Charlotte and the state since the law passed. The city immediately filed a lawsuit to stop the transfer of the airport, which is still unresolved. Jerry Orr, who served as Aviation Director since 1989, lost his job after the law passed and was appointed the Executive Director of the commission.
He looked uncomfortable during the meeting, as he sat quietly next to the commission’s layers, Martin Brackett and Richard Vinroot. Orr only spoke to introduce himself and give a short presentation on the airport’s achievements and future expansion plans.
“Build it and they will come does not always work,” he said. “We are not too big to fail.”
Orr has been under a microscope since his removal in July, as the long time aviation director sided with the General Assembly and believes the airport should become an authority. But since the commission won’t officially take over until the injunction is lifted, Orr is currently the director of a board whose existence is in limbo.
As Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee got up to speak, Orr never looked up. Tensions were palpable between those representing the city and members, but Carlee made it his first point to say Charlotte was not at war with the commission.
“The City of Charlotte is not fighting with this commission,” he said. “In fact, we want the opposite. We want your support of the leadership that’s already in place.”
Carlee also stated his confidence that Charlotte would ultimately retain control of the airport.
“If in fact the city prevails in its litigation, as we expect, it will be as if this commission never existed,” he said.
Vinroot shot back while later addressing the commission, saying he believed the commission would “win.” This statement set off a series of comments from commission members, many of them wondering why the meeting was held at all.
Commission member Jim Lawton from what he understood, the board had two powers they could actively use.
“We can fire the law firm,” he said. “We can fire Jerry Orr. And maybe we should do it.”
For now Orr and the firm are both still a part of the commission. It’s expected to meet again next month.