Airport manager irked by letter from commission
Some feathers may have been ruffled between the Detroit Lakes/Becker County Airport Commission and airport manager Darrell Lowe.
The city and county commissioners have been receiving complaints related to Lowe's public relations skills. March 16, City Administrator Rich Grabow sent a letter to Lowe, informing him of some of the complaints and concerns of the commission.
Questioning the possibility of breech of contract, Lowe retained Fergus Falls attorney Nathan Seeger. Seeger appeared before the airport commission Wednesday morning.
He said if the commission had concerns, they should have told Lowe so he could right the situations.
City Attorney Bill Briggs said he felt the letter was just that, to make Lowe aware of the concerns and to move forward. He said the commission wasn't looking for a breech of contract, but for some sensitivity. He agreed that concerns should be brought to Lowe promptly rather than letting them stack up.
Seeger said Lowe has hired Eagle Associate's Lois Greisen to train Lowe and associates to handle any future public relations problems.
He continued that Lowe is asking for "support and cooperation with the airport commission." He said Lowe has made substantial investments in equipment at the airport and wants to make the airport the best it can be. His goal is to attract new business so he can benefit from the airport as well.
Seeger said Lowe would like details of public concerns and problems instead of "finger pointing" through a letter. He also asked that the letter be retracted.
Grabow said he has received complaints via telephone, people coming into his office and from commission members. After talking to airport chairman Duane Wething, Grabow said they decided it would be best to send the letter "to make Mr. Lowe aware of the complaints.
"I was communicating that information to Darrell like he wanted."
He said he didn't send the letter to tell Lowe to fix the problems, but simply to make him aware of the complaints.
He said he could have given more details about who made complaints, but decided to leave names out at this point, and just give descriptions of the complaints instead.
In his letter to Lowe, Grabow listed such things as rudeness to customers and denial of upholstery business at the airport, among others.
Grabow also wrote that the airport Management Agreement states "the manager shall keep order and insure full enjoyment in use of the airport facilities by members of the public." As part of the Property Lease Agreement, it states the "lessee ... shall furnish good, prompt and efficient service at the airport."
He also advised Lowe in the letter that Lowe's activities and attitude at the airport are a violation of the terms of the agreements.
Seeger said from now on, his client, Lowe, would like more details so he can resolve matters without them festering into something bigger.
Wething said the letter and discussion was not about the contract, but Lowe's public relations skills.
"This is not as smooth as it should have been," he said of Lowe becoming manager. "This transition has not been easy for Darrell or the commission.
"In my opinion, Darrell does not have a real good grasp of dealing with the public."
Wething added that Lowe had the opportunity to talk to Grabow after the letter was sent out, but he didn't.
Both County Commissioner Harry Salminen and Alderman Dave Aune agreed that they felt the letter was simply making Lowe aware of the complaints, and that it was getting blown out of proportion. There was no cause for retaining a lawyer.
Seeger said the commission shouldn't have such tight reins on Lowe and his running of the airport since it is technically a private business and that Lowe is not an employee of the city.
"We're not trying to regulate Darrell's minute by minute (operations)," Grabow said.
"The airport is the front door to our community," Wething said. It's the commission's responsibility to make sure people are being treated fairly and courteously, he added.
After the discussion, Lowe said he felt better and that it sounded like the commission wanted to work together with him.