Newsmaker of the Week: Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport

    The Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport came under increasingly more scrutiny this week as questions swirl over the best way to pick a new director for the airport.

    Some, like Metro Councilwoman Barbara Freiberg, are advocating for a national search that casts a wide net in hopes of finding the most qualified person for the job.

    Others, like Councilman Trae Welch, want to give the job to interim director Ralph Hennessy, who previously served as the No. 2 to long-time director Anthony Marino. Welch and others say Hennessy has earned the job.

    Councilwoman Tara Wicker, meanwhile, has proposed hiring Baton Rouge native Jason Wilson—currently working at at Miami International Airport—as Hennessy’s No. 2.

    Amid the back and forth over the selection process, new questions arose, specifically over a series of contracts awarded to Iray Ledoux, the 85-year-old former airport director who preceded Marino.

    Since 2014, Ledoux, who ran the airport from 1977-95, has received annual contracts worth $15,200—below the $17,500 threshold requiring Metro Council approval—and this year the compensation jumped to $17,000.

    On the surface, some of Ledoux’s contracted work appears to be secretarial in nature. He archives old meeting minutes and compares pricing of fixed base operators providing hanger service for general aviation at the airport with that of FBOs at other airports.

    Mostly, however, Ledoux prepares biographies of former airport directors for an exhibit on the history of Harding Field—the airport’s site. Ledoux tells Daily Report that Marino offered him the work.

    “He wanted me to be over there doing something productive because no one else could do this, especially for what they’re paying me,” says Ledoux, who bills the airport $30 an hour and works 12 hours a week.

    He says he never billed the airport for the full contractual amount. Still, the revelation could bring extra scrutiny to the airport—which some say may be warranted.

    “I look forward to talking to (Hennessy) about this because on the surface it does not appear to be money well spent,” says Freiberg, telling Daily Report she wants to find out more about the nature of the contract and the need for it. “I hope it turns out to be much ado about nothing, but I am concerned.”

    —Alexandria Burris 

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