BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Tempers flared Wednesday night as the EBR Metro Council once again failed to land on a permanent aviation director for the Baton Rouge Airport. Michael Edwards has been serving as interim director, however, the council voted down his appointment to the permanent position after heated debate.
Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wilson says there needs to be a time limit on the search going forward. “There’s talk behind the scenes and the water has been muddied,” said Wilson.
“It’s not acceptable and it’s beneath what we as a municipality should be doing,” said Councilman Dwight Hudson.
The airport has been without a director for almost two years. Despite a national search and a committee presenting what they considered the best and brightest for the job, in August, the council gridlocked over a choice. Each one of the finalists ultimately withdrew their names for consideration.
“We spent $30,000 of taxpayer money for nothing,” said Phillip Lillard.
The frustrations over the delay were on full display inside the council chambers as some even used words like incompetent and embarrassing to describe the body.
“It’s a very big black mark for Baton Rouge when we see such incompetence and disfunction in our local government,” said Charles Perilloux.
Councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis fired back at the harsh words, saying the council simply could not agree based on the choices they were given. She says that does not mean the body is incapable of doing their jobs.
“Just because they brought them to us did not mean that we had to vote for one of those people,” said Collins-Lewis. “Seven of us could not come to a consensus and that’s happened before on this council. It doesn’t mean we’re incompetent. It just means we could not pick a person out of the three.”
Councilwoman Chauna Banks though pointed to clashing ideas on the council that she believes ultimately paralyzed the group when it came to making a decision. “There were people who would not allow the process to go through,” said Banks. “They wanted to hold on to certain candidates do or die, no matter what.”
While many on the council pushed for another national search, Wilson says a decision needs to be made sooner rather than later. “I’m getting to the point that I’m not going to sit here for another six months and look for another search. I’m not going to do it,” said Wilson.
Wilson says he hopes to have someone in the position by the end of the year.
Also Wednesday night, the metro council approved a bike share program.