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Ball says he was told to resign or be terminated

Ball says he was told to resign or be terminated
Posted: Feb 3, 2015
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HAMMOND—On the final day of his first month in office, Hammond Mayor Pete Panepinto publicly reported that his office received a letter of resignation from his airport director; however, former department Jason Ball says he was just shy of hitting his 10th anniversary in the job when he given two choices Friday afternoon—resign or be terminated.

“The mayor called me in Friday afternoon, said he wasn’t happy with the direction the airport was taking, and he told me, ‘I’m relieving you of your duties as airport manager,’” Ball said in a telephone interview with Tuesday afternoon.

When told he had to choose between resigning or being terminated, the 31-year-old said he had to ask which was the better option, because it was the first time he’s ever been fired from a job.

“I was told if I'd sign a letter, they’d pay me through the end of February, write a letter of recommendation, ‘whatever you need.’ They said I could keep my insurance, but if they terminate me, everything stops,” Ball said.

Ball said he was told he needed to decide on the spot.

“I took resignation over being terminated,” Ball said.

The longtime airport manager said he was escorted back to his office to pack his things as officials allegedly changed the locks on the doors and codes to the terminal office. He said he was locked out of his email account for work.

“I submitted my first letter, and it was accepted,” Ball said, alleging that Panepinto called him back in and indicated he would not accept the letter.

“I said due to personal conflicts and a hostile work environment, I was forced to resign as manager,” Ball said, alleging Panepinto threatened to tear up the letter and terminate him if he did not rewrite it.

Ball said he wrote a second draft outlining what he described as the deal he was cut per the earlier meeting. He said that letter wasn’t acceptable either.

“The third letter they told me word for word what to say,” Ball said, claiming that he was never told he could not disclose what happened in the offices that day.

“There were no negative comments in my personnel file, no negative evaluations. I took resignation over being terminated but why would I leave days before I’d be vested in the state retirement system? Why would I choose to leave and lose 760 hours of sick leave?” Ball said.

He says it stings to see published reports indicating interviews were held earlier this week to find his replacement, but he says the public has been supportive and sympathetic to his situation. He says he’s got leads on a new job already, and he’s been overwhelmed by the calls and comments from people he’s met and worked with through the airport.

“We’ll move forward,” Ball said. “I’ll miss so many people I’ve worked with over the years, but I know something good is going to come out of this. We are going to be okay.”
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