FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – Fort Worth’s former aviation director was using a section of airport property as a personal hunting ground, running a private aerospace business and didn’t report damage to a city vehicle from a hit-and-run wreck, according to a termination letter.
The letter sent to William Welstead on Sept. 9 also says employees reported an atmosphere of “intimidation, coercion and fear of retaliation” in the department.
At the time the city did not release any details of what led to the decision. However, city manager David Cooke asked for a financial audit and a police investigation into possible criminal wrongdoing.
According to city manager Fernando Costa, the inquiry into Welstead started in August, when a resident filed a claim with the city that Welstead was at fault in a hit-and-run fender bender.
The letter says after that wreck on June 25, Welstead directed employees to have the vehicle repaired outside of normal procedures. Costa said that turned up further findings of other accidents, reckless driving and misuse of a city purchasing card to cover repairs.
In the course of the city’s investigation, it discovered Welstead was running a business outside of his job as aviation director, something the city says he never disclosed.
A website for North Main Holdings says it offers aerospace services and products. The company is listed as the owner of a piece of property directly across from Meacham Airport. It’s a storage yard, full of trucks, RV’s, cars and boats.
The letter says there is information Welstead may have used city resources and finances to benefit the property.
No one answered a phone number listed for the storage yard and for North Main Holdings, and an email to Welstead at the company address bounced back.
The letter also says Welstead had city staff fence off a large section of property at Meacham Airport. Costa said supposedly he did it to keep wildlife off runways. However, the city had information that Welstead had also installed a deer feeder, purchased hunting equipment and was using the land for hunting.
Welstead had previously been suspended in 2017 for two weeks, after he fired an employee who filed a complaint against him.
Costa said the developments were all the more perplexing because Welstead had an excellent reputation for his airport management. He had been recognized by business publications as a top young talent and had received favorable performance reviews, according to city management.
The city did not believe anyone else knew the full extent of what was going on. Management also does not believe any of the issues affected overall airport operations at Meacham, Alliance or Spinks airports, or any of the tenants there.
The city plans to provide additional training for employees within the next few weeks, related to core values, ethical behavior and accountability.