SELLERSBURG — A former office manager of the board that oversees the Clark Regional Airport has filed a notice that she is considering a lawsuit, saying a hostile work environment led to her resignation.
The notice was filed June 12 by an attorney representing Jessica May, the former office manager of the South Central Regional Airport Authority board and executive assistant to airport manager John Secor. She was hired in May 2017 and resigned in January.
A notice of tort claim is not a lawsuit, but notifies a public entity that a party believes there is reason to bring litigation for damages. A tort claim must be filed in advance of a lawsuit. The parties named in this claim have 60 days to respond; after that, May can file suit.
The information for this story came from the tort claim, public records and an interview with Dan Gregory, vice president of the airport authority board. May declined to comment. Secor and Board President Jim Baker also declined to comment, citing pending litigation. Phone calls and emails to board members J. Greg Dietz and Kevin Baity were not returned.
The eight-page tort claim document states that in December, May was approached by board Vice-President Gregory, requesting copies of all personal expense reports submitted by Secor to the airport authority for payment. The notice alleges that Gregory discovered information among the reports that made him believe Secor had falsified some of the reports.
Expense reports obtained by the News and Tribune show that Secor claimed $8,875 in mileage from January through November 2019, with $5,120 of that specifically noted as mileage for daily airport inspections.
When reached by phone earlier this week and asked about the records, Gregory said he had started looking more closely into Secor’s expenses after the manager approached the board in 2019 with a request for a raise and new contract. Gregory said he surveyed managers from around a dozen other airports to determine their salaries and job duties.
His research led him to raise some concerns. In particular were the reimbursement claims Secor submitted indicating he drove 15 miles per day on the airport inspections, which Gregory said he feels is more than what was possible to do.
Those claims, which are public information, were obtained by the News and Tribune. They show Secor requesting reimbursement for 15 miles per day every day of the months January through November, except August when he claimed only 21 days of the 30-day month. In another month, Secor filed a claim for driving 20 miles per day every day of the month.
Gregory said he took his concerns to the board, but that no action was taken.
The notice of tort claim also states that on Dec. 12, Secor instructed May to write a check for $16,000 to a contractor for construction work, against the rules of the board authority. The tort claim notice says any payment over $5,000 must have board approval. The News and Tribune was not able to independently verify whether that is the regulation.
The employee said she reported this to Vice-President Gregory, and said she was then told by Secor and Baker that all requests for documents by the board must go through them, according to the tort claim.
She said Secor used “intimidation and threats of loss of employment” if she gave records to any member without their permission, according to the tort claim. On Jan. 17, May resigned, and now seeks compensation for what the tort claim cites as a “hostile work environment” created by the airport authority.
Secor has been airport manager for about five years. Before that, he served as a member of the airport authority board. Board members are appointed by other county boards, however the airport authority operates independently of the boards that appoint members.