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Auburn airport manager ousted

City not seeing level of progress it wanted, city manager says
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Former Auburn Municipal Airport manager Ivan Karnezis said his understanding of why his contract was cancelled is different than what the city of Auburn is saying. Auburn City Manager Bob Richardson said the city was not seeing what it would have liked to in all areas of the airport. “He was a contract employee and the contract was cancelled,” Richardson said. “We weren’t seeing the level of progress that we wanted to see in all levels of airport operations. He did an excellent job in certain areas and other areas we needed him to move forward as well.” Richardson said Karnezis’ contract began in June 2010 and from that time until September, when his contract was cancelled, the city paid him $54,104, including $50 a month cell phone reimbursements and reimbursements for things that were purchased for the airport. Karnezis didn’t receive any benefits on top of his billings and is not receiving a severance package from the city, Richardson said. Richardson said the city’s Public Works director is working with the airport in the interim between managers. “Bernie Schroeder, Public Works director, has been charged with moving all capital efforts forward with the airport, and once we have regained compliance with the FAA and Cal Trans Aeronautics Division and have completed all anticipated capital projects, we will begin recruitment for a new manager,” Richardson said. Richardson said the future manager would still be a contracted position and he doesn’t anticipate any changes in payment. Richardson said Karnezis’ main duties were dealing with the day-to-day operations of the airport, user services and maintaining the capital program of the airport. Capital projects could include things like repaving, new lighting and new avionics. Richardson said the city has received a full range of reactions from people at the airport in regard to Karnezis’ contract being cancelled, including people having the understanding certain areas of the airport were falling behind to others having the understanding it was doing well. Karnezis said he was not given the same reason when he was told his contract was being cancelled. “I was not told that when I was let go,” he said. “I was told that I was difficult to get along with.” Karnezis said his concerns about construction at the airport led to the cancellation. “The sequence of events that led up to it was that work started occurring on the airport without my notification that could possibly have interfered with flight operations,” he said. “It was construction work, and when I called to meet with the city manager about it, I was terminated.” Karnezis said several of the duties that would have been his at the airport, such as administrative control, maintenance, capital development and coordination with sub-contractors were handled by departments in City Hall, and he did the best with the tools he had. “I actually had little or no authority out there,” he said. Karnezis said he felt good about his time at the airport. “I felt like I was really responsible to all of the people on the airport, and that I had made some great improvements on their behalf,” he said. “However, some of those might have been contrary to some of the goals of the city.” Tom Brady, who has a hangar at the airport and flies with the Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles Program, said he thought Karnezis was doing fine at the airport. “Ivan was doing one hell of a good job,” Brady said. “The airport had not looked this good in the 22 years that I have been around here.” Brady said he is not happy with the city’s decision and doesn’t think it will be able to find someone with Karnezis’ credentials. “Are we disappointed around the airport … yes we are,” he said. “I do not believe they will be able to replace him with anybody as qualified as he was.” Brady said those at the airport were “absolutely in the blind” to what was going on between the city and Karnezis. Tom Dwelle, who owns Nella Oil at the airport, said the decision was confusing for everyone at the airport, but he didn’t want to speculate about what happened. “I honestly don’t know, that’s not my call,” Dwelle said. “I have a business on the airport and we are very grateful for that. We have a number of airplanes there, and things are running smoothly. And Bob Richardson is our city manager, and the buck stops there. And if there is one thing I know about being in business is the guy who signs the checks gets to make that call.” Dwelle said Karnezis is a “good guy” and still feels he will be very involved with the airport. Councilwoman Bridget Powers said the cancellation of Karnezis’ contract is not having an impact on any of the goals of the Airport Business Park Association. The association has helped get broadband at the airport, worked on setting up monument signs at both entrances to the airport and has improved government relations between the city and Placer County. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com