- Associated Press - Friday, May 16, 2014

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - An appeals court has upheld the rejection of an age discrimination claim by a former Tupelo airport director.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that a trial court was right to dismiss Terry Anderson’s claim that he was fired because of his age, agreeing there’s no good reason to believe that’s why the airport board fired Anderson.

The three-judge court accepted the Tupelo Regional Airport Authority’s claims that board members fired Anderson because they lost confidence in him after statements that board members construed as lies.

Anderson and some board members had a falling-out after the board rejected a runway extension in 2009. Anderson claimed in his initial lawsuit that he was illegally fired because he was 64 years old and because he had spoken to a reporter for the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal about the runway rejection. Anderson did not pursue claims that his First Amendment rights were violated by the firing on appeal after U.S. District Judge Mike Mills rejected them.

The board said members didn’t believe Anderson when he said he didn’t know what company provided telephone service at the airport and when he said he wasn’t being represented by a lawyer after the board received a letter from a lawyer. The board said members also didn’t believe Anderson when he denied providing comments to the reporter expressing his disagreement with the rejection of the runway work.

“The record makes clear that board members had reason to believe that Anderson provided false or misleading responses to its questions,” wrote the court. “Anderson has failed to provide evidence that the board’s beliefs were unwarranted, unfounded, or contrived. Accordingly, Anderson’s alleged dishonesty - which resulted in the board’s loss of confidence in his ability to do his job -constitutes a legitimate nondiscriminatory reason for his termination which he has failed to rebut.”

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