The protracted and controversial search for a new director for the Baton Rouge Metro Airport left a bad impression on Derek Martin, who was one of two finalists for the job until accepting a position Aug. 16 to become executive director of the Erie Airport Authority.
Martin, who previously worked as an executive with the Wayne Co. Airport Authority and in management with the Port Authority of New York, says the way the Metro Council has dragged out the process and fought over finalists was among the reasons he accepted the position at the Pennsylvania airport, even though it is a smaller market than Baton Rouge.
“I was interviewing for five different positions and Baton Rouge kept postponing,” Martin says. “It came to the point where it didn’t seem like they wanted to make a decision. It’s sort of like when you go to buy a house—if you wait too long, someone can steal it out from under you. That is what we came down to.”
After watching online the way the Metro Council handled the issue at its Aug. 22 meeting—even after he’d already accepted the position in Erie—Martin says he is glad to be out of the running.
At that meeting, with just a single candidate, David Futch, still up for the job, the council could not agree to offer him the position—even though the Shreveport native was the top-ranked candidate for the position by the executive search firm and an airport selection committee.
Some Metro Council members said they had questions about the qualifications on his resume, even though he has already been vetted and his supporters said his resume checks out.
At the end of the Aug. 22 meeting, council members put off voting on the matter indefinitely. Metro Council member Barbara Freiberg, who led the charge for a national search for a new director, says she is angry and disappointed. She’s not sure when she will bring up the matter again because the five African-American members of the council, four of whom refused to vote for Futch last week, will be in Washington D.C. for a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus when the Metro Council next meets Sept. 5.
Mayor Sharon Weston Broome has declined to get involved in the dispute and did not have any comment on the impasse.
The Baton Rouge Area Chamber, which has championed the airport as an important engine for economic development in the community, did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.
Martin says he’s never seen anything like it.
“When I looked at the video from the council meetings, I was dumbfounded,” Martin says. “I didn’t understand what this was. If you didn’t want to hire someone qualified why waste money hiring a search firm? Now, they’re saying now they’re going to consider the guy who is interim director, who applied for the job and didn’t even make the (short list). What is the game plan? I don’t know what they’re thinking.