Compliance questioned in Allegheny County Airport Authority president's exit
The Allegheny County Airport Authority's ouster of President Brad Penrod during a closed-door session last week raises questions about whether the agency complied with the state's open meetings law, a media law expert said on Monday.
The board decided in executive session on Friday that Penrod, 53, of North Fayette would no longer work at the agency. The board took no public vote and did not discuss the issue during the public meeting.
“What happened here seems unusual from a Sunshine Act point of view,” said Melissa Melewsky, media law counsel for the nonprofit Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association in Harrisburg. “He was an employee before the meeting. After the meeting, he was not. That sounds like a decision that required official action.”
Board Treasurer Dennis Davin, who heads the county's Economic Development Department, said that the board is in compliance with the Sunshine Act and that Penrod's separation deal will be voted on in the next public meeting.
Davin said there was a “consensus” that Penrod was not going to be employed by the Airport Authority and that Penrod was advised of that after the meeting. Davin wouldn't say whether Penrod resigned or was fired.
“We're well within the Sunshine laws. That's why any agreement will be voted on publicly,” Davin said. “One of the reasons of executive session is to discuss matters of personnel.”
Penrod didn't return a message for comment. Board Chairman David Minnotte could not be reached for comment.
“That's really a second vote. (His compensation package) is a separate issue,” Melewsky said.
Melewsky said boards are required to provide an opportunity for public comment before taking official actions, which must be taken in public. The board had an opportunity to hear comment before the session, but there was no indication that Penrod's job was on the line.
Authority spokeswoman JoAnn Jenny said Penrod's severance and pension information are being worked out and are not available.
Penrod took over as CEO in 2007. A year ago, the board demoted him to president and chief strategy officer and said it wanted to hire someone else as CEO. That post remains unfilled.
He worked for the Airport Authority and its predecessor, the county Department of Aviation, since 1983 and earned $214,465 annually.
The board appointed James Gill, the authority's chief financial officer, as acting executive director. His salary was bumped from $189,283 to the sum that Penrod was making.
Pittsburgh International Airport last year posted its lowest annual passenger total since opening in 1992, according to airport data. Pittsburgh has an average of about 150 daily flights to 37 destinations — down from 600-plus flights to 110 destinations in the early 2000s when US Airways operated a hub there.
Bobby Kerlik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reachedat 412-320-7886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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