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Paulding residents allege airport authority violated open meetings law
by Tom Spigolon
April 11, 2014 11:16 AM | 1806 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
From left, Paulding airport director Blake Swafford and county resident Sue Wilkins listen to comments from Post 2 County Commissioner Todd Pownall after an airport authority meeting in January.
From left, Paulding airport director Blake Swafford and county resident Sue Wilkins listen to comments from Post 2 County Commissioner Todd Pownall after an airport authority meeting in January.
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Six opponents of Paulding airport commercialization have filed their fourth legal action against a Paulding governing body, alleging the board that manages Silver Comet Field violated the state’s open meetings law by improperly notifying the public about a two-day retreat and the need for closed sessions during regular meetings.

Sue Wilkins, Anthony Avery, Bob and Mary Board, and Jordan and Jan Louie filed the lawsuit in Paulding County Superior Court Wednesday. They are seeking $1,000 in civil penalties on the airport authority and each member, and want the court to stop the authority from violating the state open meetings law in the future.

The suit alleges the airport authority left the county for a two-day retreat to discuss a plan for passenger service at Silver Comet Field without providing proper notice of the event and did not provide minutes of the retreat as required by state law.

It also alleges the authority went into closed session during meetings four times in 2013 without giving a required reason, as it discussed commercialization before a company’s October announcement it was working to bring a passenger airline to serve the Paulding airport.

Wilkins said she took the action because, “By filing this lawsuit, the plaintiffs hope to stop the inappropriate conduct of the airport authority regarding Georgia's Open Meetings Act, and to send a message to the county and its other entities that the residents are no longer willing to tolerate the abuse of power.”

Defendants include the Paulding County Airport Authority and the authority’s 10 board members, including director Blake Swafford, chairman Calvin Thompson, Paulding County Commission Chairman David Austin, Hiram Mayor Doris Devey, Dallas Mayor Boyd Austin, Ellis Astin, Alan Shipp, Kerry Tidmore, James Underwood and Carolyn Wright.

Wilkins and Avery first sought to intervene in a bond issue for work to improve the taxiway last fall. They and the other plaintiffs also filed a legal challenge that led to a new Federal Aviation Administration assessment of environmental conditions at the airport.

They also challenged an intergovernmental loan for the taxiway improvements.

Paulding government officials have publicly said the secrecy was needed because it was in the midst of negotiations for a project that could bring jobs to the county. Public knowledge of the negotiations could have ruined chances of landing the prospect, they maintained.

They also have alleged Delta Airlines is funding the group’s legal challenges because Delta is worried about competition from a new airline in the market.

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