Canaveral Port Authority Ousts Payne As CEO
By Space Coast Daily // March 29, 2013
Proposal To Give $5 Million To Schools Tabled
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BREVARD COUNTY • PORT CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – Canaveral Port Authority commissioners tabled a motion to give $5 million to Brevard Public Schools and voted 4-1 to remove J. Stan Payne as the port’s CEO on Wednesday.
Payne, who has served as Port Canaveral CEO for the past nine years, has been embroiled in controversy for the last year regarding high turnover rates among port employees and the imposition by the port board last June of costly tolls and fees for private parking lot operators and hotel shuttle vans.
That decision was reversed by the board last July, but raised questions about Payne’s ability to lead and his relationship with local businesses going forward.
He had defended the controversial tolls and fees as a way to make the port’s parking system more competitive and an initiative to generate more revenue.
Payne’s leadership also came into question when a controversial video he approved was released last year by Port Canaveral that depicted off-site parking as highly inconvenient and potential targets of vandals and violent criminals.
Commissioner Hank Evans proposed that Payne be placed on paid administrative leave through July and allow him to complete negotiations for long-term contracts with cruise companies sailing from the port. After that, Payne would be terminated.
“Nobody’s perfect, but he has led the port to where it is today. I think we’re making a mistake.” Canaveral Port Authority Commissioner Frank Sullivan about removing Stan Payne as Port Canaveral CEO
Before voting, Commissioner Frank Sullivan said getting rid of Payne would be an error.
Sullivan cited statistics that showed that under Payne, the port’s total revenue rose 84 percent and its net revenue rose 156 percent.
“Nobody’s perfect, but he has led the port to where it is today,” Sullivan said. “I think we’re making a mistake.”
But the board voted to accept the motion by Evans.
Payne said he will look back upon his time with the port with fondness.
“I’d like to thank Hank Evans,” he said. “We had a nice conversation on the phone. It’s been my distinct honor to serve Port Canaveral. Some way, some how, the port has risen to great heights.
“I will leave with pleasant memories,” Payne said. “It’s not a day of sadness and I’d like to thanks you for letting me do this for the last nine years.”
The board voted to name John Walsh as interim CEO and have a plan in place by its next meeting to conduct a national search for a new permanent CEO.
Walsh is currently the port’s Deputy Executive Director for Infrastructure.
In another action, the board tabled a proposal by Commissioner Bruce Deardoff to give $5 million to Brevard Public Schools.
Deardoff had proposed the idea to help keep three schools that the Brevard School Board voted Feb. 12 to close.
Port Authority Board Chairman Thomas Weinberg said the decision to table the motion does not mean the proposal is not worthy, but it gives the board time to study the issue.
“We have to make a decision based upon a sound financial decision,” Weinberg said. “It’s an issue that deserves consideration, but we need to know more before proceeding.”
He said tabling the motion gives the board an opportunity to hire an outside counsel to determine if such an action would be legal and give the board time to seek an opinion from its bond council about how such a measure would impact the port’s bond rating.
Weinberg also said tabling the proposal allows board members to open a dialogue with school board members before the school board’s next meeting on April 9.
“We need time to consider all the options about what we might do,” he said.
Some port commissioners had expressed concern about the legality of giving money to the school board, even though the port’s attorney, Harold Bistline, rendered an opinion that it would be legal.
Bistline represents both the school board and the port authority as legal counsel.
Also at the meeting Commissioner Deardoff said he will resign from the board to devote more time to his automobile dealership.
He did not give a specific date for that action.