Friday, November 4, 2011

CHOPPY LANDINGS: City hiring practices to blame for airport manager fiasco?

A city employee blasts management hiring practices at City Hall 

COLUMBIA, 11/3/11 (Beat Byte) -- Columbia Water and Light is on its third director in as many years: Dan Dasho, Kraig Kahler, and now Tad Johnsen. Columbia Regional Airport (CRA) manager Andrew Schneider, a source told the Heart Beat, was fired for "offensive comments." 

And in a management merry-go-round, Columbia public works director John Glascock has hired the same person twice to run the airport since 2010: airport superintendent Don Elliott, CRA's fourth manager in as many years. Elliott preceded -- and now replaces -- Schneider. 

These personnel ups and downs strike one City of Columbia manager as symptomatic of a larger problem. "The city's hiring process is flawed," the manager told the Heart Beat, illustrating the point with a detailed chronology of Don Elliott's career. "They either hire someone from the outside who is less qualified than an existing employee, or they promote someone from the inside who is less qualified than an existing employee. It happens in every department." 

Passed over in recent years for less-qualified management, the city employee cited Eric Meyer - police; Ron Barrett - finance; Tony St Romaine - City Managers office; Jim Paneck - protective inspection; Bill Weitkemper - sewer and wastewater; and Elliott at the airport. 

"Pete Capadonie, a former pilot, was the airport manager who first hired Don Elliott in 1982," the city employee explained. "The next airport manager after Mr. Capadonie retired was Gary Cummings. When Mr. Cummings resigned in 1994, Kay Wagner, a long time Public Works secretary who had no management or airport related experience was hired as airport manager. 

Don Elliott had been employed at the airport for 12 years at this point. 

"When Mrs. Wagner became ill (cancer) in 1999 Bill Boston, another former pilot, was hired to manage the airport. 

Don Elliott had been employed at the airport for 17 years at this point. 

"When Mr. Boston retired in 2005, public works director John Glascock hired -- and then essentially fired -- Kathy Sok.  

Don Elliott had been employed at the airport for 23 years at this point. 

"The Columbia Tribune reported, 'In October (2005), Glascock offered the airport manager job to Kathy Sok, the former security coordinator of Central Nebraska Regional Airport. But the offer was withdrawnhad been fired from her previous job in a pay-raise flap and had inaccurate information on her résumé.' after news reports revealed that Sok

"In 2006, Mr. Glascock hired another long time Public Works secretary Kathy Frerking, who had no management or airport related experience, to be airport manager -- again to more controversy. The Columbia Tribune reported: 'Glascock rebuffed the idea Frerking was hired because she is a known commodity. 'She knows the business side better than anybody,' he said. 'She'll hit the ground running, and that's what we need right now. Sometimes you overlook what you have locally.' 

Don Elliott had been employed at the airport for 24 years at this point.

 "In 2010 Kathy Frerking retired. Mr. Glascock finally appointed Don Elliott, but only as an interim airport manager. Don had been employed with the airport for 28 years at this point. 'Internal candidates are always good because they can hit the ground running,' Glascock told the Tribune. 

"But then he hired Andrew Schneider to take over permanently. And just last week, about a year later, Andrew Schneider was dismissed."

After 29 years diligently working at the Columbia Regional Airport, Don Elliott is back again as "interim airport manager." 

And John Glascock is back again crowing about Elliott's outstanding capabilities. "Don knows the day-to-day operations of the airport, and I’m confident that he will do a good job," Glascock said in a news release.


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