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Charlotte Area

Council Grills Airport Advisory Chairman; Dorsch Stonewalls

shawn dorsch airport advisory.jpg
Julie Rose

Charlotte Airport Advisory Committee Chairman Shawn Dorsch took 90 minutes of questions and sharp criticism from the city council Monday, but declined to answer most queries regarding his role in the controversy over control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.  

The city council is peeved at Shawn Dorsch for encouraging neighboring county commissions to support a measure that would transfer oversight of the Charlotte airport to a regional authority and sending talking points to legislators sponsoring the measure.

Dorsch says he did those things as a private citizen – and that he has not publicly expressed an opinion as chairman of the Airport Advisory Committee.

Mayor Anthony Foxx tried to pin Dorsch down about how long he'd been involved in conversations which led to the current legislation that would strip the airport from the city's control.  During a testy minute-long exchange Dorsch deflected the question and Foxx pressed on. 

"Sir I'm asking you a question," said Foxx, angrily. "Were you part of conversations about changing the airport to an authority as early as January 2012."

After a long pause, Dorsch replied, "I'm here in an official capacity."

"I think you've just answered my question," huffed the mayor.

Dorsch's official capacity as chairman of the Airport Advisory Committee is to advise the city council on airport policy and management.  If Dorsch had been doing his job, Foxx says the council wouldn't have been blindsided by the push for an airport authority.

Dorsch argues the council didn't ask for the advisory committee's opinion before the bill was filed and then asked the committee not to discuss the issue until a city-sponsored study could be completed.  Councilman Michael Barnes asked Dorsch for the names of other individuals who've been driving the airport authority push. Dorsch refused.

"I don't think it's my role to identify people in the community," said Dorsch. "I think it's up for them to make a decision about when they want to publicly identify themselves and express their opinions."

"But they're not going to," interrupted Barnes. "They've clearly pushed (Senator Bob) Rucho and these other guys to the point where they've filed bills and  – we're rolling down hill now and the turd is getting bigger and bigger. And it's not gonna stop." 

Frustrated at the lack of answers from Dorsch, the council switched between questioning and verbal lashing.

"Boy are you a dancer and I really don't appreciate your dancing around our questions," said Councilwoman Patsy Kinsey. "I just think you have way overstepped your bounds."

"You are one slick fella and I don't trust you," said Councilman Andy Dulin. 

Councilwoman Beth Pickering asked if Dorsch had considered stepping down as chair of the airport advisory committee

"No ma'm, I haven't.," replied Dorsch. "I have not done anything that would require that or warrant that. And as I've said tonight, any conversations I've had with anyone has been in a personal capacity." 

That prompted Councilman David Howard to ask Dorsch if other members of the airport advisory committee had asked him to resign.

"I've had a variety of discussions," said Dorsch, deflecting again.

"Shawn, please one time tonight answer one question direct, just one," said Howard, slamming his fist on the table. "Has anybody on your committee asked you to resign?

Dorsch repeated, "I've had a range of discussions with people." 

At which point Howard turned to other members of the airport advisory committee in attendance at the meeting: "Anybody wanna stand up and tell me please? Has anybody over there asked Shawn to resign?"

Five of the 11 airport advisory committee members stood, including Vice Chairman Andrew Riolo.  

After Monday's meeting, Airport Director Jerry Orr only shrugged when asked if Dorsch should remain the chairman of the committee and said, "it's in the mayor's court."

Mayor Foxx has the power to dismiss Dorsch from the advisory committee, but late last night he released a statement saying he would delay any action because members of the Airport Advisory Committee had asked for time to deal with Dorsch's chairmanship internally.


Six of the 11 members of the Airport Advisory Committee say they think Chairman Shawn Dorsch should resign. They are: Peter Acker, Pamela Bennett, Scott Culpepper, Stephen Gedney, Crystal Jackson and Andrew Riolo.