The Richmond Register

May 6, 2013

Airport board controversy likely to be discussed at joint local governments meeting

By Bill Robinson
Register Editor

MADISON COUNTY — Can one of the three local governments that jointly incorporated the Madison Airport block one of the partner’s appointments to its operating board?

That likely will be one of the issues discussed when Madison County’s three governing bodies — fiscal court, Richmond City Commission and Berea City Council — conduct a joint meeting noon Thursday at the Madison County Extension Center.

Madison Judge/-Executive Kent Clark is seeking to block Berea’s appointment of George Wyatt to the airport board. At the council’s March 19 meeting, Berea City Council member Ronnie Terrill asked that the issue be discussed at the three governments’ next joint meeting.

Wyatt has been a long-time member of the former airport board and had served as its secretary.

He and former board chair Eddie Pullins drew the judge/executive’s ire when they acted to secure a temporary airport operator after the former operator exercised an option in its contract to terminate service Dec. 31, 2010, with little advance notice.

Had they not acted, Wyatt has said, the airport would have been without an operator Jan. 1, 2011, and planes that landed would have been unable to buy fuel. The airport board moved to accept all the emergency actions he and Pullins took, according to Wyatt.

However, Clark persuaded the fiscal court to back his move to suspend Pullins from the board, citing what the judge/executive called a breakdown in communication between county government and Pullins.

Pullins then sued Clark in circuit court seeking reinstatement. The suit was eventually settled, but the legal action brought to light that the airport board had not been constituted accorded to the state statute that governs airports operated by city-county partnerships.

The three local governments then moved to re-create the board and appoint members.

Clark, citing wording in the statute that provides for joint appointment of city-county airport boards, contends that one government can veto another’s appointments.

While Wyatt has served long and well on the past airport board, Clark has said, he should not be on the board for an interval.

Berea Mayor Steve Connelly, citing another state statute which provides for members of a public board to remain in place until a replacement is appointed, had asked the board to recognize Wyatt as a member until the issue is resolved.

Clark says that statute does not apply in Wyatt’s case because the previous board was dissolved and members need to be appointed afresh. The county attorney supports that view, the judge/executive stated in a letter to airport board chair Wilma Walker. However, Clark said he was seeking an attorney general’s opinion on the issue.

Bill Robinson can be reached at editor@richmondregister.com or at 624-6690.