County airport worker fired after investigation

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.comA county employee has been fired after an investigation into irregularities at the Rowan County Airport.
Kathy Transon, of Salisbury, had worked at the airport for almost 8 years before being terminated Jan. 26. Prior to that, she had been suspended with pay for 30 days.
Transon said Wednesday she had done nothing wrong and is appealing the county action to the Rowan County Personnel Commission. Transon contends she was targeted by the new airport manager.
Ken Deal, county director of administration, declined to say whether Transon had been fired or resigned.
Transon handled billing, payments and other clerical work as an administrative secretary. She worked for the private company which operated the airport prior to the county taking over operation.
Deal said Thad Howell found some irregularities in accounting and asked for an audit. Howell, a commercial pilot, was hired as airport manager in September.
Ron Kiser, the county’s internal auditor, conducted an extensive review, which Deal said is continuing.
Deal said the audit turned up some procedural accounting issues. While the audit looked at issues involving fuel and other products sold at the airport, Deal said, there doesn’t appear to be money or product missing at this point.
He acknowledged county officials have looked extensively at missing fuel, but he is uncertain as to whether fuel is missing.
Transon said the issues raised against her “have no merit whatsoever.”
She said all airport employees were interviewed at length about issues including thousands of gallons of missing jet fuel.
Transon said the previous airport manager, Tony Hankerson, had the tanks cleaned and apparently several thousand gallons of contaminated jet fuel was hauled off.
During a subsequent hearing before top county officials, Transon said she asked if they had found the fuel. She said they indicated the fuel had been found.
Transon said another charge dealt with her making mistakes on invoices for a company where her daughter works. Transon said her daughter is a bookkeeper and does books for three companies that do business with the airport, but is not involved in doing invoices or paying bills. She flatly denies she did anything to favor or give those companies a break.
Transon contends many of the issues raised by the county deal with differences in software for aviation-related business versus the county software.
Transon said the claims are a smokescreen by Howell to get rid of her. She said within two weeks of arriving at the airport, he told her he would get rid of her. She said he accused her of stealing files and keys which he subsequently found. She also claims he screamed and yelled at her and at customers.
Transon, who says her business experience includes 12 years operating her family’s custom machinery business, So Tec, said she would like to have her job back. She’s nine months shy of being vested with the county.
Deal said the county has advertised the administrative secretary position. He also said he has full confidence in Howell and has worked closely with him since the day he was hired.
“I don’t feel he has done anything inappropriate,” he said.
Deal said Transon’s termination didn’t have anything to do with issues she had with the airport manager.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.