Little Rock airport official wrote of hostile work environment in resignation letter that prompted internal investigation

Ex-official cites attitude of execs

LITTLE ROCK -- The former director of air service development for Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport/Adams Field complained of a hostile work environment when she resigned, according to a copy of her resignation letter.

Rachel Bader started working for the airport in 2017 and was promoted to director of air service development last January, according to an Arkansas Business article.

Bader's undated resignation letter was addressed to Executive Director Bryan Malinowski and Deputy Executive Director Tom Clarke. In it, Bader wrote that she was resigning "immediately."

Among other workplace issues, Bader wrote that her efforts related to community outreach were discouraged by Malinowski, Clarke and Shane Carter, the airport's director of public affairs and governmental relations.

She also wrote of a negative interaction that allegedly occurred while officials were preparing for the November launch of a new direct flight from Little Rock to New York City's LaGuardia Airport.

Bader wrote that Carter had been seeking information on holiday projections and daily passengers for the LaGuardia flight while he was with a reporter.

About 10 minutes after Bader told him she did not have the information but would get it for him, Carter appeared outside her office, "upset that I was unable to get him the information immediately," Bader claimed.

She wrote that Carter "aggressively" stated that he might as well obtain the information on aviation himself. At one point, Carter said he was going to HR, "implying I did something to him to cause this situation," Bader wrote. "During the interaction I said nothing and was in shock by the hostility Shane showed towards me."

She suggested that Carter "is allowed to be this way since he is favored by you."

Bader later wrote that Carter's treatment of her as well as the actions of Randy Ellison, the airport's director of facilities, and his subordinates "has created a very hostile work environment for me."

Carolyn Witherspoon, an attorney with the law firm Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus, which serves as general counsel for the airport, provided a partially redacted copy of the letter to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in response to a request.

"We have redacted the medical information that would constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy," Witherspoon wrote in an email.

When asked about Bader's last day of work, Witherspoon said she did not have that information.

In a follow-up email, Witherspoon wrote, "Since we are in the midst of an investigation, it would be inappropriate for me to interject. However, the airport denies that there was any hostile work environment. Likewise, Mr. Ellison and Mr. Carter denied the allegations and mischaracterizations. They further dispute that they ever created any hostile work environment."

On Tuesday, Mark Williams, the airport's human resources director, told members of the Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission that he had undertaken a "small investigation" in response to the accusations in Bader's letter. Williams told commissioners he expected to be finished by Wednesday afternoon.

M. Stephen Bingham, another Cross, Gunter, Witherspoon & Galchus attorney who attended the meeting, told commission members that the statements in the letter did not appear to require an outside investigation.

Airport officials earlier this year tapped a Wright, Lindsey & Jennings attorney to conduct a review of hiring and human resources practices following claims made by a former operations director for the airport in the wake of his termination late last year.