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Foxx ousts embattled airport panel chairman

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    Shawn Dorsch’s ouster is a reversal of fortune for a Charlotte entrepreneur who revived the airport’s aviation museum by landing the “Miracle on the Hudson” plane as an exhibit.

    Dorsch grew up in Winston-Salem, earned an economics degree from N.C. State and after working at JPMorgan moved to Charlotte to work with First Union, now part of Wells Fargo. In 1996, he co-founded a company called Derivatives Net, which developed an electronics derivatives trading system called Blackbird, named for the famed spy plane.

    In November 2010, after Dorsch had left the firm, Derivatives Net filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, according to federal court filings. Since 2012, he’s been president of a firm called Clear Markets, which develops trading systems.

    Chip Biggers, a Charlotte attorney who worked with Dorsch, said he was a hard worker and longtime pilot and aviation enthusiast. He once had a tape in his car with airplane engine noises. and could name the planes by sound.

    His best-known achievement in Charlotte was building up the Carolinas Aviation Museum. According to the nonprofit’s tax filing, he receives no compensation as museum president and spends 20 hours a week working for the organization.

    “He has an incredible record for accomplishing things, ” Biggers said. Rick Rothacker



Shawn Dorsch’s peers on the Charlotte Airport Advisory Committee asked the embattled chairman to resign this week. On Tuesday, Mayor Anthony Foxx took away that choice.

Foxx removed the Dorsch from his post a day after an infuriated Charlotte City Council accused him of undermining city control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Support for Dorsch’s ouster, which had been growing for weeks, came to a head Tuesday afternoon when a majority of Dorsch’s own committee asked Foxx to remove him.

He became an easy target for City Council rage after suburban Republicans introduced a bill to create a regional authority to run the world’s sixth-busiest airport. Two leaders in neighboring counties say Dorsch, a city appointee, lobbied them to support the change.

“For weeks, it has been my judgment that you represent a vocal, largely invisible minority supportive of changing our airport governance,” Foxx said in his removal letter.

“This action is not taken to punish you for your views. I take this action to uphold the integrity of the (airport advisory committee) and the role committees play in our system, which is to advise the City Council. ... You have given me very little choice.”

Later Tuesday, Dorsch responded. “I appreciate having had the opportunity to serve,” he told the Observer. “I understand that the mayor was in a difficult position and I look forward to helping the community in any way I can.”

Several airport-committee members say they asked Dorsch to resign. When he refused, Vice Chairman Andrew Riolo, and members Pete Acker, Scott Culpepper, Crystal Jackson, Pam Bennett and Steve Gedney, sent a letter to Foxx on Tuesday asking the mayor to remove him.

Five of them stood Monday night when the City Council asked if they supported Dorsch’s resignation. Gedney, who was standing in another part of the room, raised his hand in support.

Acker, CEO of CMC-Lincolnton, said Tuesday that the furor over Dorsch’s actions “has become an absolutely incredible distraction. This is a challenging time. All our attention and time should be set aside to serve the City Council that appointed us. And that’s impossible to do in the current environment.”

Two committee members reached Tuesday said they supported Dorsch. One, Ed McMahon, wrote in an email that after watching how the council “badgered” Dorsch, “maybe one can see why many people are concerned about the future management of our airport.”

Committee member Todd Fuller, a pilot and former N.C. State basketball star, said he had seen no “hard evidence” that Dorsch had lobbied for the regional authority. As chairman, he said, Dorsch made sure committee members received information supporting the various points of view on how the airport should be run.

The airport controversy surfaced in February when state Sen. Bob Rucho and state Rep. Bill Brawley, both of Matthews, introduced the regional airport authority bill. The measure passed the state Senate and awaits a vote in the House.

City leaders, who say they were ambushed by the move, have called on legislators to delay the final vote until a city-financed study is completed. Passage, though, is expected.

Culpepper and other committee members say news of Dorsch’s activities caught them off guard. Several said they had not made up their minds whether the airport authority is a good idea.

“I personally contacted Shawn on Sunday and asked him to voluntarily step down,” Culpepper said. “In my view he had not represented the committee and he violated the trust put in him when we elected him as our chairman.”

While Dorsch refused to answer most City Council questions, he shared his views Tuesday with a television audience. WCNC-TV, the Observer’s news partner, ran an interview from February in which Dorsch said it “was natural and logical” for a thriving airport like Charlotte to “have its own dedicated board of directors.”

In his letter, Foxx said Dorsch’s appearance before the council “suggests an evasiveness and lack of transparency that is hardly representative of our citizen committees or those who serve as chairs.” Staff writer Rick Rothacker and researcher Marion Paynter contributed.

Gordon: 704-358-5095
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