Just over two months before his scheduled retirement, Charleston airport's second-in-command Bill New abruptly stepped down last week, the third top-tier manager to leave in less than nine months.
New's upbeat one-page letter of departure gave no indication of internal turbulence, but on Friday New said he left early for the same reasons that drove former director Sue Stevens away last July.
"Obviously, there is some micromanaging going on coming back from the board, not the whole board but some members," New said. "I don't know what the real agenda is, and I don't want to come off as being negative or bitter. ... It seems like a continuation of what was going on even when Sue Stevens was there."
Aviation Authority Chairman Andy Savage said New's April 18 departure stemmed from a late February letter from board member Larry Richter to an attorney hired late last year to issue an opinion about the way the agency procures its legal services. Savage said New believed Richter's actions questioned New's integrity.
Richter's letter to lawyer Amy Jenkins, obtained by The Post and Courier, requested copies of all email correspondence between Jenkins and any airport staff or board member.
"There is a concern about our internal methods of handling certain matters, and I am trying to get all of that sorted out," Richter says in the letter. "I'd prefer receiving this information from you rather than asking staff for it."
New, as second in command, was involved in overseeing the outside attorney's opinion on the agency's procurement policy, and he had access to all the documents Richter was requesting.
Richter, who recently had surgery, was not aware New had decided to step down early and said it was never his intention to cause distress.
"I'm very sorry Bill had his feelings hurt in any way," Richter said.
Richter said he was trying to determine the chain of events leading up to the legal opinion sought on the Aviation Authority's procurement manual.
He said the opinion came in before the board asked for an attorney general's opinion and it should have been shared with the board.
Airports Director Paul Campbell said the opinion arrived just before the board meeting in December, but staff did not have time to review it.
"I just don't think there was any trust in the staff that we were going to report back any information that we received," New said.
New said he was "tired" of what was going on and said, "It's time for me to go."
He was set to step down in the fall but agreed to stay on until June 30 to fill the void left after Stevens resigned in July, citing bullying by certain board members and launching dual investigations by the State Law Enforcement Division and the FBI into some board members' possible meddling in construction contracts.
New also agreed to stay on longer to help steer the agency while Campbell, its new director who also is a state senator, served the better part of three days a week in the General Assembly in Columbia from January to June.
The agency is interviewing applicants for the deputy director's job and should have an announcement by mid-May, Campbell said.
Stevens' resignation followed the retirement of chief airport engineer Jim Fann last June. Stevens had asked to keep Fann on to oversee airport construction, but some board members thwarted her request.
With New now gone, Savage hopes the exodus of upper-level staff members will stop.
"We can't continue to have this drain in the top of our senior management," Savage said. "Stability is important."
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.
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