<a href="https:\/\/mountainmedianews.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/13\/2015\/06\/Greenbrier-airport.jpg"><img class="alignleft size-medium wp-image-12540" alt="Greenbrier-airport" src="https:\/\/mountainmedianews.com\/wp-content\/uploads\/sites\/13\/2015\/06\/Greenbrier-airport-300x225.jpg" width="300" height="225" \/><\/a>By Sarah Mansheim\r\n\u201cThis is a business, and we need to operate it like a business.\u201d\r\nSo said Greenbrier County Airport Authority Chair Lowell Johnson, when asked about the series of personnel changes at the Greenbrier Valley Airport. Johnson was referring to the retirement of general manager Jerry O\u2019 Sullivan last spring, the removal of Sherman McClung as operations and maintenance manager, and the recent retirement of chief financial officer Linda Yoak, who opted to retire after she had been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of a financial audit.\r\nJohnson did not elaborate on the circumstances on O\u2019Sullivan and Yoak\u2019s retirements, but he did note that \u201cevery employee (at the airport) is there at the will and pleasure of the board.\u201d\r\nAs to whether the personnel changes were made as part of a deliberate changing of the guard on the part of the authority, the governing body of the airport, Johnson demurred.\r\n\u201cI don\u2019t think we started with the idea of \u2018cleaning house,\u2019\u201d he said. In fact, what he started with was a series of questions that he began asking over two years ago.\r\nJohnson joined the airport authority in 2012, becoming chairman in 2013. Up until that point, he said, the authority deferred to the general manager and CFO, i.e. O\u2019Sullivan and Yoak.\r\n\u201cI believe that the (airport authority\u2019s) oversight was very lax,\u201d he said.\r\nUpon becoming chairman, Johnson said he began to look into the contracts the airport authority held with its tenants, including the airport\u2019s restaurant, rental car agency, and those who rent airplane hangars. He didn\u2019t find much: most tenants had no contracts to speak of or were operating under contracts that were expired; one of them, he said, hadn\u2019t been renewed since 2008.\r\n\u201cEverything was made by verbal agreement with Jerry O\u2019Sullivan,\u201d said Johnson, who had also discovered that the rates for hangar rentals varied depending on the tenant.\r\n\u201cI insisted we get contracts with all these people. Jerry worked with the various groups and we now have equitable pay for the hangers.\u201d\r\nThe more Johnson dug around, the more concerns he had. He said he discovered that there was no insurance on the airport buildings. He found that there were no security cameras at the airport or on its fuel farm. He discovered there was no employee handbook.\r\nAt that point, Johnson began pressing O\u2019Sullivan to put insurance coverage into place and to create an employee handbook standardizing all operating procedures. And, he begin looking at the airport\u2019s finances.\r\nDuring the authority meetings in 2014, Johnson began pressing for full financial reports from Yoak. For years, the authority paid a CPA, James L. Teed of Teed and Associates, to perform their annual audits. This year, Teed failed to provide a report and was suspended by the West Virginia State Auditor\u2019s Office.\r\nBy then, O\u2019Sullivan had announced his sudden retirement, and the board commissioned the State Auditor\u2019s Office to provide them with a full, comprehensive audit of the airport\u2019s finances. At that point, Yoak was placed on paid administrative leave. She has since accepted retirement.\r\nEarlier this year, the board terminated McClung\u2019s employment as operations and maintenance manager. McClung had been personally hired by O\u2019Sullivan without the approval of the authority back in early 2014. In June, 2014, the authority amended McClung\u2019s title to acting operations and maintenance manager, but then hired him to the permanent position after a proper vote was cast.\r\nLast week, the authority voted to separate the operations and maintenance managerial positions, hiring Cheryl Davis as director of operations and Clyde Green as director of maintenance. Both Davis and Green are long-time airport employees.\r\nThe authority also approved the hiring of Martha Livesay as the executive assistant to new general manager, Stephen Snyder. Johnson said they will not hire another CFO, but instead will depend on an outside, independent CPA to perform the heavy financial lifting for the airport.\r\nAs for the audit, the results have still not come back. The original audit performed by Teed remains in limbo, as the CPA refuses to release the audit to the airport authority unless they recuse him of any responsibility, Johnson said. The other audit, from the state office, is still pending.\r\nJohnson said he does not expect the state audit to reflect any wrongdoing on the part of Yoak, the former CFO, but, he said, \u201cwe need to make sure that the money the airport spends is accounted for. Before, we didn\u2019t have anyone with eyes on the finances other than the CFO and the general manager.\u201d\r\nIn fact, said Johnson, over the years, as Teed had performed the annual audits, there were no line items accounted for, just a general balance sheet. Johnson said he hopes that financial oversight from the authority will help to track such things as travel expenses incurred by management, which before, were never called into question.\r\n\u201cWe\u2019re going from a very laissez faire kind of situation to implementing policies and procedures,\u201d said Johnson in regards to the airport\u2019s future and its relationship with the new general manager. But, he said, it won\u2019t be easy.\r\n\u201cIt\u2019s hard to go from a laissez fair system to one that\u2019s going to be held accountable,\u201d he said, so the board is seeking input, not only from its new CPA firm, but from the Federal Aviation Administration as well. He said the authority is also putting together an advisory panel of aviation experts and community members to help bring the airport into the future.\r\n\u201cWe\u2019re trying to get some good recommendations on how to run this airport,\u201d said Johnson, who noted that his goal of bringing education and economic development to the airport includes a revamped website and better relationships with the community at large.\r\n\u201cWe have it all here. The Greenbrier, the mountains, downtown Lewisburg, white water rafting. We need to highlight that to pilots and passengers in order to make the Greenbrier Valley an appealing place to fly into,\u201d he said.\r\nThat also includes the possibility of getting rid of Silver Airways. Johnson and Snyder both said they are very unhappy with the quality of service the airline has provided to travelers - the combination of late flights, lost luggage and limited service are enough for them to consider an alternative airline.\r\nSnyder said he is committed to bringing a daily flight to either Charlotte or Atlanta, and possibly, a direct flight to Florida. He said he also wants an incoming flight from the West Coast - something either out of Nashville, Dallas or Phoenix. The airport\u2019s contract with Silver Airways expires in September, 2016, but neither Snyder or Johnson seem to be willing to continue working with the airline.\r\nAnd as for the management shake-ups? Johnson acknowledges all of the changes have caused a lot of whispering in the community, what with the sudden retirements of O\u2019Sullivan and Yoak, the firing of the operations and maintenance manager, and the financial audit.\r\nSo, what happened?\r\n\u201cWhat happened was, the board took over the airport,\u201d he said.