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Who's In Charge at BOI?

Labor disputes lead to two resignations

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Well, that's two less parking spaces they'll need at the Boise Airport. Director John Anderson and chief of airport police Mike Johnson are both out, according to several sources.

Johnson submitted his resignation last month, city officials said. Anderson's resignation was in on Monday.

"We've known John [Anderson] was going to proffer his resignation for a few days," said City Councilor Alan Shealy, who sits on the airport board.

Mayor Dave Bieter on Tuesday named Garry Fraise as interim director of the Boise Airport and announced a nationwide search for a new airport director. Fraise was hired as a programs analyst for the airport in 1994 and since then has served as the airport's security and operations manager,

Labor disputes were apparently on the front burner, according to letters provided to BW under a public records request. Early in August Bieter declined a request from Andrew Harnhardt, president of the Service Employees International Union Local 687, to form a separate union for police officers at the airport. The 30-some officers who work at the airport are separate from the main Boise Police Department, and have been since 1992, according to the airport's Web site.

Two days later, Harnhardt replied that one option open to the officers was to call a strike at the airport.

"You and the council have demonized labor unions," Harnhardt wrote. Complaints about the situation, Harnhardt said, had been forwarded to Bieter since he took office and "I believe this has now become a safety issue for the traveling public."

In a letter sent to Bieter August 15, Johnson called that "absurd," and said that despite some "disciplinary encounters" the airport police were a fully-functioning and effective unit. Johnson got some backup August 17, when Officer Jim Cromwell and 12 other Airport Police officers sent a letter to Bieter saying that "we do have faith in our chief," but that police at the airport needed to organize. In an interview with BW, Hanhardt said airport police earn significantly less than regular Boise Police.

All of this comes against the backdrop of discussions between the Boise City, BPD, and airport officials about possibly merging the airport police with the regular department. According to BPD spokeswoman Lynn Hightower, the discussions began in July, when Boise City Council asked BPD for a "business analysis" of what the advantages and disadvantages such a scenario might create.

"Since Johnson's retirement announcement, that made that study a little more urgent," Hightower said. The BPD's lead analyst of the matter is Deputy Chief Mike Webb who, like others in the BPD, began his career at the Boise Airport back when it was under the regular police department.

The sudden departure of Anderson comes after 22 years at the airport, starting when he was hired on as the director of operations in April of 1984. His salary is $111,153, according to city records.

"We thank John for his long service to the citizens of Boise and his contributions to our airport, and we wish him the best in all of his future endeavors," said Bieter.

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