Should He Stay or Should He Go?

by Leslie Turk

Greg Roberts has rubbed a lot of people wrong in the 14 years he's served as airport director. Has his abrasive personality sealed his fate?

When Aviation Director Greg Roberts refused to disclose the salaries of airport staff last summer by citing "Homeland Security" risks, his response was as much about arrogance as it was a blatant disregard for the public records laws and the people Lafayette Regional Airport serves. That cocky disposition hasn't endeared him to many people in Lafayette ' particularly the board of commissioners he answers to ' and now it's part of the reason he may lose his job.

Carroll Robichaux, chairman of the Lafayette Airport Commission, says Roberts can either retire or face termination. "If Mr. Roberts doesn't retire or resign, it'll probably be the first thing on the [June 7] agenda," says Robichaux, who wants to see the aviation director replaced after more than 14 years on the job. "There are four [additional commissioners who support his termination] for sure," he adds.

Count Brenda Burley, who has served on the commission for more than a decade, among them. "I want him out, but I've wanted him out for years," she says. Burley is one of Roberts' strongest critics and says she has had professional differences with him since her first years on the commission, though she declined to discuss any specifics on the record. However, she says Roberts' demeanor and the way he treats staff and others who do business with the airport are among the reasons he should be replaced. "I would give that a good third of the [basis]," she says.

Robichaux also acknowledges Roberts' rude personality as grounds for his pending departure. "That's one of the things [Commissioner Don] Higginbotham and I talked to him about Monday [May 21]. The way he asserts himself. He's got the military attitude," Robichaux says, referencing Roberts' military service. "I can deal with him, but it's the way he handles himself in the public eye."

Shortly after Roberts refused to disclose his salary, The Daily Advertiser and a group of concerned residents began investigating spending practices of the airport staff and commission, which led to a state legislative auditor's review and resulted in policy changes such as banning post-meeting meals at the airport's expense and reimbursement of some travel costs. "I went to one meal the night I went on the board and one luncheon last year," says Robichaux, who has served for three years. While he maintains that the questionable spending is a "minute" motivation for replacing Roberts, the commission chairman declined to discuss any specifics due to potential litigation.

The Lafayette Airport Commission is made up of seven members, and Robichaux votes only in the case of a tie.

Roberts does have at least one adamant supporter in immediate past chair Jim Nunn. "Greg is imminently qualified for his job based on his past performance," says Nunn, noting recent increases in passenger boardings, air freight business and airport rental income.

In typical fashion, Roberts was abrupt in responding to a request for an interview about his job security. "I really don't have any comment at this time," he said.

Regarding the salary issue, Roberts eventually released the figures ' his is $92,000 ' after the airport's attorney, Glenn Edwards, could find no justification for his absurd Homeland Security pretext. By then, however, concerned residents had already begun an investigation that, at least in part, may ultimately cost him his job.