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No need for secrecy on city airport issue

It has taken approximately eight weeks but we finally have ananswer as to why the city board of aldermen suddenly and secretlyabolished the Brookhaven Municipal Airport Board.

Resurrecting his old newsletter called the “City Record,”whichhe used extensively during his prior administrations, Mayor BillGodbold — through the city attorney — explains the reasons behindthe city’s sudden action last month to dissolve the airportboard.

It appears from the article that city fathers found the airportboard was in violation not only of the airport board’s own bylaws,but possibly of state laws. The violations, according to CityAttorney Joe Fernald, involve residency questions for boardmembers, the lack of regular board meetings and proper minutes ofboard actions, and most seriously, a conflict of interest situationinvolving fuel prices and hangar rental.

The city discovered the problems, acted on those problems anddissolved the board. The city board is ultimately responsible forthe airport, so their actions to correct problems should becommended.

We just have to wonder — why all the secrecy?

Prior to the June 4 executive session that dissolved the airportboard, there had been no discussion of the airport problems duringcity board meetings. The decision to dissolve the board and takeover the operation of the airport came as a complete surprise!

Any questions we tried to ask received no comments, or refusalsto return phone calls. The city board members and the mayor keptthe lid on the issue apparently to hide something, we just do notknow what.

If an appointed board is not doing its job, that board should becalled on the carpet and made accountable. State law and publictrust say that should be done in open meetings. Those open meetingsprotect the integrity of the board by keeping everything aboveboard, while also allowing taxpayers to be confident their bestinterests are being watched.

The city board can claim pending legal action as the excuse tohide, but it does not wash. Everything the board does caneventually result in legal action.

This board has a history of trying to conduct the city’sbusiness in private — from their own pay raises to, just recently,problems with a fire hydrant! Alderman Jerry Wilson regularly asksto discuss issues “off camera.” Even at the top of each meeting’sagenda is a printed phrase that says the board reserves the rightto discuss issues in private. Sorry, but state law says a boardcannot!

With all of the heat the mayor and aldermen have been under dueto the airport situation, they could have easily avoided thecontroversy if they had done two simple things — conducted theirmeeting in the open and been forthright when asked questions.

Doing so lets everyone know the ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ of citybusiness.