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Gov. Pat McCrory hosts negotiations on Charlotte airport

Gov. Pat McCrory is now actively involved in the negotiations over who will control Charlotte Douglas International Airport as the battle between the city of Charlotte and state legislators over its future moves to the courtroom.

McCrory, the former Charlotte mayor, called a meeting between the two sides in Raleigh on Monday, said Richard Vinroot, another former Charlotte mayor who is backing the state’s effort to create an airport authority. They agreed not to discuss publicly what took place at the meeting, Vinroot said.

Vinroot, an attorney representing the airport authority, also declined to say what could happen next.

The meeting came days after the city of Charlotte filed a lawsuit to block legislation that would remove its control of the airport in favor of the independent authority. It was attended by City Attorney Bob Hagemann, Vinroot, McCrory and two other lawyers.

Hagemann declined to comment.

The talks in Raleigh did not come up at the Charlotte City Council’s meeting Monday. Councilman Michael Barnes told the Observer that he and his colleagues were not informed of the meeting with the governor ahead of time.

Mayor Patsy Kinsey, however, addressed the airport issue in a statement near the end of Monday’s council meeting. She said the council is committed to making sure the wrangling does not have an effect on the operations of the airport – for passengers, airlines, employees, vendors or contractors.

She also said that she and City Manager Ron Carlee have spoken several times with executives at US Airways about the matter. The airline maintains its largest hub in Charlotte.

“While the council and I regret that we were forced to pursue legal action, as elected officials we have a responsibility to protect our community’s most vital economic asset and were given no other alternative to do so,” Kinsey said, reading from prepared remarks.

The city of Charlotte has been battling the state legislature for months over control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The issue came to a head on Thursday after legislators passed the bill that removes city control of the airport and transfers it to a regional authority.

The city filed a lawsuit seeking to block the transfer. A judge granted an injunction to temporarily stop the law from going into effect, but it will be up for review in court on Monday.

Longtime airport aviation director Jerry Orr was also ousted from his position after sending a letter to city officials that labeled him the director of the Charlotte airport under an authority. Orr has said he thinks Charlotte Douglas should be run by an authority, despite being told not to lobby in support of an authority by his former bosses. The two sides dispute whether Orr resigned or was fired.

On Monday, Orr ate lunch with Interim Aviation Director Brent Cagle, according to WCNC-TV, the Observer’s news partner. Orr praised Cagle and the rest of the airport management.

“They are well-trained and competent,” he told WCNC.

The City Council met in closed session for more than an hour after the regular business meeting to discuss a legal issue.

Staff writer Ely Portillo contributed.

Dunn: 704-358-5235 Twitter: @andrew_dunn
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