Authority minutes missing

Jul. 28, 2013 @ 12:51 PM

An on-going effort to gather a report on the activities of the Rutherford County Airport Authority has discovered a decade worth of meeting minutes missing from record.

In emails requested by The Daily Courier, it was confirmed that Airport Authority meeting minutes from 1980-90 are missing.

The minutes reflect business conducted during public meetings and are required by North Carolina law to be kept.

The search for any and all information regarding the Authority was requested by the Rutherford County Commission and is being conducted by County Manager Carl Classen. The purpose of the search is to garner a report to commissioners for their Aug. 5 meeting when they are scheduled to discuss a possible takeover of the Authority.

In emails between Classen, Authority Chairman Bob Howard and Authority attorney Beth Miller, commissioners Bill Eckler and Bo Richard requested the meeting minutes on July 18.

"I was told the minutes for the Authority were located in a filing cabinet at the airport," Richard said. "We went to the airport and found the minutes from 1991 to present and I asked for the 80s."

Minutes from 1970-79 were discovered along with the minutes from 1991-present, however there was a decade of minutes missing, the emails confirmed.

Someone took a good job in making sure the ones from the 70s were ready as well as those from present," Richard said.

In the emails, both Howard and Miller acknowledge they had no information regarding the whereabouts of the missing minutes.

Under North Carolina G.S. 143-318.10 (e), every public body "shall keep full and accurate minutes of all official meetings, including any closed sessions held pursuant to G.S. 143-318.11. Such minutes may be in written form or, at the opinion of the public body, may be in the form of sound or video and sound recordings."

Richard said he requested the meeting minutes looking for any information regarding tree trimming by the Authority. It was spurred from a recent decision by the Authority to pay Commission Chairman Julius Owens nearly double the appraised value of his 10-acre tract to remove a tree holding Marchman Field in violation of a federal law regarding the glide slope of approaching aircraft.

A tentative agreement was signed in 2010 by Owens and the Authority that would have paid Owens $12,000 and allow the Authority to remove the tree however that agreement was never executed.

Richard said he was seeking any information regarding prior attempts to trim the tree, bringing the airport into compliance.

"I was doing a multi-purpose search but found zero," Richard said.

But, Richard said another issue has come up as a result of the missing minutes.

"There is a lack of fiduciary duty in keeping the minutes on hand, the question is which board is responsible," Richard said.

The question stems as a result of the fact the Authority, while established under state law and autonomous, has its members appointed by the County Commission. But, there is nothing in state law that indicates who is ultimately responsible for maintaining the records.

Under G.S. 143-318.16 (a) the "General Court of Justice has jurisdiction to enter mandatory or prohibitory injunctions to enjoin (i) threatened violations of this Article …"

"The minutes weren't there and, to me, that means they are subject to compromise because they weren't in the same location as the previous and current minutes," Richard said.