Interviews with candidates for the top job at Tampa International Airport will be open to local news organizations after all. At least some of the questioning.
Steven Burton, a member of the airport's governing board, said Tuesday that he will let reporters sit in on his interviews of the four finalists at the Tampa Airport Marriott this afternoon. He decided to open his interviews after reading a St. Petersburg Times editorial online Monday night, he said.
Managing partner of the Tampa law office of Broad & Cassel, Burton criticized the lack of transparency of the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority under the direction of former executive director Louis Miller. Miller resigned in March after clashing with Burton and board member Joseph Diaco. He was appointed Monday by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to run Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
"The lack of openness led to some of the problems we had," Burton said.
Diaco said Burton's decision wouldn't change his mind about interviewing the candidates in private. "I may ask some personal questions," he said. "It's not the business of the public."
Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio suggested a third way: a public meeting where board members question the finalists in the open in addition to private one-on-on sessions. She asked if an open session could be arranged before the board votes on a new executive director. The decision is now scheduled for Oct. 7.
"I have to have a one-on-one," she said Tuesday. "But if the public or press want to see how the candidates react to questions, let's do it."
It's unclear whether the other two board members — Hillsborough commissioner Ken Hagan and developer Al Austin — will open their interviews. They didn't return calls Tuesday.
The search firm, SpencerStuart, advised authority board members to ask questions in private. Each board member is scheduled for one-hour interviews with each of the four candidates today and Thursday. The finalists are:
• Kent George, 63, director of aviation for Broward County, home of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. He previously served as executive director of Pittsburgh International Airport.
• Kevin Dillon, 54, chief executive of T.F. Green Airport in Providence, R.I. He was one of three deputy executive directors at Orlando International Airport in 2007 and 2008.
• Lester W. Robinson, 58, chief executive of Detroit Metropolitan Airport from 2002 until the Wayne County Airport Authority board decided not to renew his contract in May.
• Joseph Lopano, 55, executive vice president of marketing at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. He is in charge of bringing new airline service to the airport and previously worked for Lufthansa Airlines and Continental Airlines.
Steve Huettel can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3384.