Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Burke discusses board resignation

Former Airport Authority member says she was not effective

Express Staff Writer

Martha Burke

Two weeks after her resignation, former Friedman Memorial Airport Authority Vice Chair Martha Burke said she resigned because she felt she was not an “effective” representative for the city of Hailey.

Burke resigned from the authority—but not the Hailey City Council—effective Dec. 17, when she submitted a letter to the council and Mayor Fritz Haemmerle. Burke was not present at the meeting, but stated in her letter that she was resigning due to “my recent comments made during the Dec. 4, 2012 FMAA meeting and the subsequent fallout they caused.”

Burke went on to say in the letter that she felt her “credibility and effectiveness” had been compromised as a result of her comments.

Though Haemmerle later stated that he felt Burke’s credibility had been compromised, Burke said in an interview Friday that if she had been thinking more clearly, she would not have included “credibility” in her letter.

“I don’t believe my credibility is damaged,” she said. “I do believe my effectiveness [was]. I couldn’t help but think that I wasn’t doing the job that I needed to do.”

Burke said the confusion and miscommunication that led to her resignation began during a City Council meeting on Dec. 3. The council met to discuss the upcoming airport meeting, at which the city was meant to tell the authority and airport staff how they would like the process of improving the airport at the current site to proceed.

Burke said the council should have used the city’s guiding principles—a list of statements approved by the council in March that were meant to shape the decision-making process for either building a new airport or making improvements to the existing one—and a letter from Haemmerle stating that the city would only accept alternatives six and seven, as starting points for a discussion.

“Those were foundations to guide a direction,” she said. “Those were our position papers.”

Burke said that she, Friedman Memorial Airport Manager Rick Baird and T-O Engineers spokesman Dave Mitchell asked the council for specific directions on the next steps that should have been taken—such as requesting certain studies and plans and laying out situations in which they might support expansion.

“For some reason, [what we needed] was not picked up upon,” Burke said. “When the representatives of the city of Hailey went to the FMAA meeting, we only had a position. We didn’t have any way to say, ‘Given our position, here is how we can move forward.’”

As a result, Burke said, she spoke “out of frustration,” telling the authority that she was not being allowed to compromise or work with them on finding an amenable solution.

Burke said she felt that she was not a good Hailey representative, as she was unable to communicate with the council and make them understand that she needed a clearer direction to bring to the Airport Authority.

“It’s frustrating to be a spokeswoman for someone else when you are not making your point well enough to your council for them to understand,” she said. “Later, you find you cannot function at a decent level with the authority, because your message is not what you hoped to deliver.”

Despite the “fallout” from her remarks, Burke said, she did not consider resigning from the council as well as from the authority.

“The airport issue is one component,” she said. “If I am not being an effective communicator between the authority and the council, that’s one thing.”

Burke said she would continue to attend airport meetings as a member of the public.

“It makes me so sad to have to resign from the authority, because I think we are really close,” she said. “I hate to leave the party just when it’s getting fun.”

Kate Wutz:

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