Speculation the Boeing 777X long-range jet would be built in North Charleston dominated aviation headlines recently, and it appears the new plane will be assembled in Washington state if lawmakers there approve an incentive deal and the Machinists union OKs concessions. Those are big ifs, given a labor leader’s denouncement of the proposed deal Thursday.
But that doesn’t mean other things aren’t going on at Charleston County Aviation Authority, which oversees Charleston International Airport, where Boeing is buying more land and will likely expand its 787 Dreamliner campus at some point for an as-yet unstated use.
Unfolding behind the scenes at the Aviation Authority are two significant events unrelated to Boeing.
First, the State Law Enforcement Division and the FBI are continuing their previously disclosed investigation into allegations made by former Airports Director Sue Stevens of wrongdoing by some Aviation Authority board members related to contracts for Charleston International’s $189 million terminal upgrade and expansion.
Airports Director Paul Campbell said no one from SLED or the FBI has spoken with any staff members at the authority. But Stevens’ employment attorney, Nancy Bloodgood, said officials from both law enforcement agencies sat down recently with her and Stevens to learn more about what transpired over the past few years as the authority laid the groundwork and hired contractors to remake the airport’s aging terminal.
That work started this year. It’s supposed to wrap up in August 2015.
The second part of Stevens’ sudden departure in July from the helm of the agency where she worked for a quarter of a century is her charge of sex discrimination by some members of the all-male board.
In her letter of resignation, Stevens, 58, asked for a “fair severance” package by the end of September, when she officially stepped down, or she was prepared to seek legal action and go through other channels to press her case.
Since no offer was forthcoming, Stevens is moving ahead.
Bloodgood said last week she has filed a charge of discrimination with the S.C. Human Affairs Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
It takes several weeks of back and forth correspondence and includes getting a position statement from the Aviation Authority before the charge is officially filed, according to Bloodgood.
Once that happens, Stevens must wait six months before pursuing legal action, Bloodgood said.
In the meantime, the Aviation Authority plans to wait on results of the SLED report before taking on Stevens’ allegations and trying to resolve any differences, according to Authority Chairman Andy Savage.
Bloodgood said results of a criminal investigation will have no bearing on a sexual discrimination case moving forward.
“It doesn’t matter to me what SLED or the FBI does,” she said.
For now, it’s a wait-and-see approach and it looks like a protracted battle unless the Authority comes forward with an offer to settle its differences with Stevens and put this chapter behind it.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.
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