Gene Richards voted out as Burlington airport director

Published: Sep. 10, 2021 at 4:53 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 10, 2021 at 6:06 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Gene Richards is out as director of the Burlington International Airport after a late-night Burlington City Council vote following an hourslong hearing.

“We further recognize that the current situation is untenable to retain Mr. Richards as director of aviation,” said Max Tracy, P-Burlington City Council president, announcing the council’s decision to oust Richards from his role as airport director.

The City Council voted 10-1 in favor of termination after a 90-minute hearing and two hours of closed-door deliberations.

During the hearing, the attorney for Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington, laid out the results of a two-month-long investigation which revealed accusations of a hostile work environment created by Richards and numerous displays of swearing or belittling employees.

“We encourage you we fulfilled our obligation here with providing you with the information you need to make a decision, a sound decision, and we encourage you to protect, support and affirm your employees,” said Pietro Lynn, Weinberger’s attorney.

Richards, who was airport director for nearly a decade, responded to those accusations by apologizing for any offensive behavior but urging the council to allow him to finish out his current contract, citing the numerous successes he had turning a struggling airport into a thriving institution.

“I respectfully ask you to allow me to continue my term until June 2022. During this period I will prepare the airport for transition to a new director of aviation. I will continue to work with these amazing projects and more than anything I will apply the lessons I have learned from this moment on,” Richards said.

The mayor echoed Richards’ successes and noted how sad he was that Richards’ tenure had come to this after all he has done serving the city. But Weinberger contended that putting Richards back in his role would condone the serious mistreatment of employees.

“The actions and repeated lapses of judgment documented in Anita Tinney’s memo are inconsistent with the shared values of collaboration belonging and respect that I expect our department heads to demonstrate and that are reflected in our personnel policies as demonstrated tonight,” Weinberger said.

After the hearing, Richards said he was not surprised by the council’s decision. But he said he went through with the hearing because he believes he was not given due process and wanted to have his day to explain what happened publicly.

The city will immediately begin searching for a new permanent airport director. In the meantime, Deputy Director Nic Longo will continue to fill in.

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