Hunt continues for missing minutes

Aug. 01, 2013 @ 09:34 AM

The search for a decade’s worth of Rutherford County Airport Authority meeting minutes continues with the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Department joining the search.

On Wednesday, Airport Authority Chairman Bob Howard said there have been some cassette tapes recovered that may or may not be of meetings held between 1980-1990 — the decade of meeting minutes missing from airport files.

Howard said the recordings were made because the clerk at the time had arthritis and could not keep full written minutes.

The search was prompted when County Commissioner Bo Richard requested minutes from the 80s to find any previous dealings with the Authority and a tree located on property owned by County Commission Chairman Julius Owens. The tree put the airport in violation of a federally-mandated glide-slope ratio for approaching aircraft.

In June, the Authority agreed to purchase the entire 10-acre tract of land for $300,000 when it was independently appraised at $168,000.

Upon investigation last week, minutes were located from 1970-1979 and 1991-present but minutes from meetings held in the 80s were missing.

Howard said the cassette tapes — which were turned over to the county Wednesday — were not located with the rest of the minutes.

“We have a file and we have a tendency to look only for files and not at everything,” Howard said. “The tapes were stored downstairs in a storage room.”

Further investigation later Wednesday recovered one more cassette tape but Howard said he does not know what is on any of them.

“Most people never even knew the minutes were on tape and assumed they were in documents,” Howard said.

According to state law, it is the responsibility of any public body to maintain public documentation of their meetings. Officials with the North Carolina School of Government and the State Records Center — the entity contracted by numerous boards across the state to maintain a backup of those records — the responsibility of those records falls to the Airport Authority.

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 …”

Howard said they are continuing to search the airport terminal building for any signs of documentation regarding the missing decade and will turn those over to the county.

“Now that we know we need to be looking for tapes, we are going to go back to the people we have talked to before and see if they have knowledge of any tapes,” Howard said.

He added, moving forward, the Authority should contract with the State Records Center to back up any and all documentation from the Airport Authority.

“I would think that what we really need to do is, when a new chairman comes on, there is some kind of a checklist of what needs to be done and when new members come on, they have that checklist and go to look to make sure everything is where it needs to be,” Howard said.