Charleston airport board postpones decision on attorney’s contract

Charleston County Aviation Authority attorney Arnold Goodstein will have to wait until January to see a contract for his legal services.

The 13-member airport board voted Thursday to ask an employment attorney for an opinion on whether the agency should seek bids for professional services and, if not, draw up a contract for Goodstein detailing his responsibilities.

The move came after a three-member airport panel recommended immediately before the full board meeting that Goodstein receive a flat fee of $265,000 a year with no extra benefits, $30,000 more than he currently earns. Most board members seemed to think that was a fair amount.

“It’s certainly reasonable what they said,” Goodstein said after the vote. He disagreed with some board members that the agency should advertise the position.

“You are not hiring a lawyer. You already have one,” he said. “It’s just putting terms and conditions of the engagement in a contract.”

Before the meeting, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey had drafted a contract that called for Goodstein to receive $284,000 a year in salary and benefits through June 2016, about $50,000 more than he currently earns through a flat fee plus expenses.

That changed Thursday morning.

Goodstein told The Post and Courier on Wednesday he preferred a flat fee rather than a salary and benefits and wants to remain an independent contractor, not a full-time employee of the Aviation Authority.

The committee, chaired by Summey, agreed and offered him a flat fee.

“This is someone with continuous knowledge of where you have been and where you are going so you will know how to get where you want to be,” Summey said. “This is not to guarantee the length of employment for the lawyer. It’s to ensure he stays on at our beck and call.”

Several board members wanted to see a contract before voting on the flat fee offer. Others wanted to know if it was proper to offer a contract without seeking bids for legal services and wanted the contract to include specifically what services the lawyer would provide.

“It’s not clear what legal services are included,” said board member Ben Hagood, who also wanted a written contract for the new amount before he would vote on the offer.

He also said it wasn’t clear if Goodstein would be an Aviation Authority employee or serve as an independent contractor.

Hagood supports going out for bids if the contract term of service is longer than a year.

Aviation Authority Chairman Andy Savage said the original contract proposal wasn’t “worded very well” but he said contracting with Goodstein would offer stability in legal services through 2016.

“We may have an ethical obligation to set forth the scope of services,” board member Larry Richter said.

Board member Tommy Hartnett said Goodstein would probably outshine anyone else who applied for the position, but he wanted the board to follow proper protocol.

“Why not follow the outline in our procedural manual for professional services?” Hartnett, a former congressman, said.

Board member Mallory Factor agreed.

“We have policies and procedures, and they should be used,” he said. “To make exceptions doesn’t seem proper or legal.”

Board member Ellie Thomas, an accountant, requested a legal opinion from an employment attorney on whether the agency should seek bids so the issue will be settled for future hiring purposes.

The board agreed and will come back in January to revisit the contract.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.

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