VERMILION COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — The Vermilion Regional Airport Authority has suspended their Airport Manager, Alexandra Gale.
On Sept. 26, the VRAA held a special meeting to discuss personnel matters, while Alex attended a conference on behalf of the VRAA. Mr. Rodney Hightower, a friend of board member Craig Davidson, reportedly flew in on his plane from STL to the meeting. Hightower was in their executive session for more than two hours. After the executive session, the Board took no action, was silent, and adjourned.
Gale’s suspension is reportedly due to a series of events during her 21-month tenure with VRAA. Gale believes the issues stem from an event the VRAA hosting an after-hours business event on Sept. 30. Gale said she presented her manager’s report during the meeting. The Board did not ask her any questions or indicate any problems.
Then on Sept. 22, Gale said Mr. Johathon Myers and Mr. Joe Vincent approached her. The men said they received complaints, but the two would not disclose who made the complaint. They told Gale to reach out to attendees from the event and to send that information to Meyers and Vincent.
The next day Meyers told Gale to contact people that made statements and said all the statements went with the information in the written accounts. The gist was the event was successful, and Gale conducted herself professionally while representing the VRAA.
On Sept. 29, around 2:30 p.m., legal counsel for the VRAA, Jerry Davis, contacted Gale’s counsel to ask whether Gale would speak with Jerry Davis and Mr. Hightower before the special meeting at 10:00 a.m. Friday. Hightower reportedly tried to contact Gale on her cell phone late Thursday evening. As Gale did not know who Hightower was and that he would be getting her, she did not respond. At this time, the Board remained silent.
Before the special meeting, the two met with their legal counsel to resolve the issue. However, the Board told Gale to resign during that meeting or the Board would “make things difficult for her.” Hightower reportedly made clear that the Board did not want to keep her as the Manager of VRAA. The Board at the time remained silent.
During the special meeting, members asked Gale for a written memo or report of the disciplinary investigation. She stated she received nothing of the sort. The VRAA Employee handbook requires a “written memo or report” to management with all facts. An employee must sign a copy of this memo. Then a copy of the report is to be placed in the employee’s personnel file.
Eighteen individuals spoke up on Gale’s behalf during the special meeting on Sept. 30, all in support of her as the manager. “Local companies stressed the importance of her continued involvement in VRAA, and that her continued involvement is one of the pillars of their success.” While the public voiced their concerns, the Board remained silent.
Afterward, the Board went into a four-hour executive session and voted to suspend Gale for 45 days, pending her signature for the suspension terms. They also voted to hire Hightower as a consultant and Interim manager. The release said that the “Board did not take rollcall votes, and they did not vote on compensation, benefits, etc. for Mr. Hightower.
Hightower released a statement regarding the suspension. He said it was due to a series of events over her 21-month tenure with VRAA.
Gale said she would not be silent. “It is disappointing that an unfounded accusation is enough for the Board to discount her accomplishments and involvement with the community. It is a shame that Vermilion County taxpayers are footing the bill to pay Mr. Hightower, a friend of a board member, as a consultant and interim manager, without any transparency to or input from the public. Mr. Hightower does not reside in Vermilion County, and he does not pay taxes in Vermilion County.” was said in a press release. “He has zero ties to our community.”
The release stated that Alex gave her time, effort, and energy as manager of VRAA. She wants to put the community first and tell the truth.
Gale wants the VRAA to rescind her suspension and allow her to get back to work.