Big Bear City Airport

Wednesday, November 9, 2005
Airport GM put on leave
By JUDI BOWERS and MICHELE PINNEY
The Big Bear (CA) Grizzly

At a Nov. 6 special meeting, airport district board members decided to relieve General Manager Jake Godown of his duties. Board president Bill Jones said Nov. 7 Godown was placed on paid administrative leave as of 8 a.m. “That’s all I can say right now,” Jones told The Grizzly. Big Bear City Airport board of directors failed to notify The Grizzly of the Nov. 6 special meeting, which is a Brown Act violation. However, the board’s decision made at the meeting is still valid because a notice of the meeting was apparently posted, according to attorney Jim Ewert, California Newspaper Publishers Association attorney. Rick Herrick of KBHR 93.3 FM said he did receive notification of the meeting. The radio station’s offices are located in the airport terminal building.

The airport district’s attorney Elizabeth Martin appologized to The Grizzly for the newspaper not receiving the notice. She said she faxed the notice from her office in the desert but didn’t follow through to make sure it arrived. “If there was a problem, it was my fault,” Martin said.

Godown was hired Jan. 10 and there has been no indication of problems. The decision to place him on leave came days before the election where at least one board member would end his term. Jones chose not to seek another term. Butch Waymire did campaign for another term, but results of the vote were not available as of press time. Attempts to reach Waymire and board member Bob McNutt were unsuccessful before press time.

A special meeting had been scheduled for Nov. 4. It was noticed to the media, and the agenda item called for a closed session for a performance evaluation for the general manager. Also included was an item entitled Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release, which is required if disciplinary or termination action may be taken.

That meeting was scheduled to take place at Northwoods Resort rather than the airport terminal building where regular meetings are held. It’s unclear why the meeting was scheduled at an alternate location. Jones said he didn’t know why the meeting was planned for Northwoods, even though as the chair he is responsible for calling a special meeting. Carol Binford, secretary to the board, was also asked why the meeting was planned offsite. “Good question,” was her answer.

Board member Russ Lowery told The Grizzly the airport board normally holds meetings on personnel issues offsite for security purposes. The Nov. 4 meeting was called to order, the Pledge of Allegiance said and public comment asked for. The board adjourned to closed session, according to Jones and Martin. Jones said the board discussed Godown’s performance evaluation, but was not able to resolve the matter at that time. Jones said the Nov. 4 meeting was continued to Nov. 6, but requests for minutes of the meeting have not been provided to The Grizzly to verify if the matter was continued or the meeting adjourned to Nov. 6. Lowery said the meeting was not adjourned to Nov. 6, and that was verified by Martin. A board member had a prior commitment and had to leave the Nov. 4 meeting, Lowery said.

Following the Nov. 6 meeting, the board returned to open session and announced there was no reportable action, which is questionable in Lowery’s opinion. He said no formal vote was taken regarding Godown’s employment, but the board members came to an agreement. Lowery and Jones met with Godown Nov. 7 and presented him with a letter indicating he was being placed on paid administrative leave. Godown was notified by letter on the advice of the airport district’s attorney, Lowery said.

Martin said whether a formal vote was taken and action ensued is a question of intrepretation, and she can’t answer questions regarding it at this time. She said the board is not required to report any action involving an employee before informing the employee if he or she isn’t present.

Godown did not attend the Nov. 4 meeting as he was out of town on airport business. He did not attend the Nov. 6 meeting either, and Martin said she does not know why.

Godown was general manager of Brackett Field in La Verne for four years before coming to Big Bear Valley. He worked for American Airport Corp., an airport management company, managing all five Los Angeles County municipal airports and several in Riverside County.

Attempts to reach Godown for comment were unsuccessful at press time.

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