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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Airport executive director Morrison resigns

John G. Morrison, who’s been the executive director of Spokane International Airport for the past 12 years, announced Tuesday he’s stepping down from the job at the end of 2005.

Airport board members accepted Morrison’s resignation during a special meeting at the airport offices. Also Tuesday, the board announced an agreement providing Morrison a one-year contract of $115,000 for consulting services in 2006. The board also agreed to cover part of Morrison’s medical insurance premiums until age 65.

Morrison, 59, did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

The meeting included a reading of a statement by Morrison thanking the board for permitting him the time to devote more care for his ailing wife. Morrison’s wife, Rita Morrison, has been diagnosed with early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The couple have been married for 38 years.

“She has stood faithfully by my side as I devoted much of my time and energy to making this airport the best,” Morrison’s statement read. “I have made the decision that that I know most of you would also make” in a similar circumstance, Morrison wrote.

Two weeks ago, following an executive board session at Felts Field, airport officials responded to questions about Morrison by saying he had begun a vacation of unspecified length.

Last week, in a brief phone conversation, Morrison said he was on a family medical leave and intended to resume his duties later this year.

After the Felts meeting two weeks ago, Airport Board Chair John Wagner said he would not comment on personnel matters related to Morrison. During Tuesday’s board meeting, Wagner repeated that general statement, saying federal laws prevent disclosing details that impinge on Morrison’s privacy.

The board on Tuesday also appointed current board member Irving Reed to step in as interim director of the airport.

Starting today, Reed takes over the executive director’s job while a search begins to find a permanent executive director.

For the rest of 2005, the airport will continue to pay Morrison his current salary of $115,000. Airport Board Member David Brukardt said Reed and Morrison will decide what work will be done, and where Morrison will do it.

“It could well be off-site” instead of inside the airport buildings, Brukardt said.

Morrison’s $115,000 contract in 2006 covers performance of “such duties as the board and director may direct from time to time,” the board said.

Brukardt, the chair of the airport personnel committee, said the 2006 contract was needed so that Morrison could provide “overlap and assistance” and management experience during the time a new director takes over.

No tax dollars are used to pay Morrison’s salary or benefits since the airport’s revenue comes from landing fees, rental receipts, building leases and other payments from airport users.

The board also approved 18 months of COBRA medical insurance for Morrison and his wife, starting January 2006. COBRA is a federally-required medical insurance option when an employee leaves or terminates his regular job.

In addition, starting July 2007, the board agreed to provide Morrison $500 per month as a supplemental payment for medical insurance until he reaches age 65.

Brukardt declined to say if performance issues played a role in Morrison’s resignation, saying personnel discussions would be kept private among board members.

The Spokane airport handled about 3 million passengers in 2004 along with 57,336 tons of cargo. It is run jointly by the city of Spokane and Spokane County.

Morrison joined the airport in 1985, serving first as director of the business park. In 1993 he became the airport’s executive director and CEO.

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