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Council to monitor airport authority

By By Ben Alexander/The Meridian Star
March 23, 2001
Members of the Meridian City Council say they will spend more time at the Meridian Airport Authority following controversial meetings there during the last two weeks.
On Thursday, Mark Cowart, MAA's executive vice president, resigned after allegations surfaced that he embezzled money from the airport's long term parking collections. According to minutes of a March 13 meeting, board members unanimously refused to accept Cowart's resignation, despite the minutes say his admission that he embezzled the money.
According to the minutes, Cowart was originally to be put on probation for a year, ordered to seek counseling for "his problem with theft," have his salary reduced to $47,500 per year and ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution.
Ward 5 Councilman Bobby Smith and Ward 3 Councilman Barbara Henson attended Thursday's MAA meeting, chatting with the news media, mayoral hopeful Bill McBride and others while the board met in executive session. Both said they were disappointed with the MAA board's earlier handling of the situation.
Smith and Henson talked several times on Thursday after hearing rumors the airport authority board didn't take more severe action against Cowart. Meridian Airport Authority board members are nominated by Mayor John Robert Smith and approved by a majority vote of the city council.
Henson and Smith said they pledged at least one of them will present at every MAA meeting in the future. Scheduled board meetings are the second Tuesday of each month in a conference room at Meridian Regional Airport.
Ben Alexander is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at balexander@themeridianstar.com.

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