Lawmaker on Charleston airport board calls his appointment unconstitutional
A lawmaker recently appointed to Charleston County Aviation Authority said he won’t serve because he believes his appointment is unconstitutional, but he’s sending a proxy.
Sen. Chip Campsen, a businessman and attorney, became eligible to serve on the 13-member board in August when he was elected vice chairman of the Charleston County legislative delegation.
The law, co-crafted in 2007 by Rep. Chip Limehouse, who serves as chairman of the Aviation Authority, appointed the chairman and vice chairman of the delegation to the airport board.
“I believe that law very likely violates the separation of powers doctrine ... of the South Carolina Constitution,” Campsen said in a letter Friday to Charleston County Aviation Authority. “I further believe the law likely violates the constitutional prohibition against dual office-holding.”
In his stead, Campsen originally appointed former Charleston City Councilman Tim Mallard as his proxy. On Friday, he revoked the proxy to Mallard and bestowed it on attorney and former state lawmaker Ben Hagood.
Campsen did not immediately return calls Friday to explain his decision.
Campsen’s comments about his appointment being unconstitutional go to the heart of a lawsuit challenging the legality of the chairman and vice chairman of the legislative delegation or their designees serving on the board.
In February, Charleston attorney Waring Howe and the S.C. Public Interest Foundation sued Limehouse and former Sen. Glenn McConnell of Charleston, who is now lieutenant governor, House Speaker Bobby Harrell of Charleston, and former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard in his capacity as Senate president before he resigned in disgrace.
Howe and Edward Sloan Jr., a retired paving contractor behind the S.C. Public Interest Foundation, claim, among other things, the General Assembly violated state law by passing legislation specific to one county.
Howe called Campsen’s take on the legality of his serving on the airport board important because it could amount to a capitulation by the defense.
“If Chip (Campsen) sees it that way, it wouldn’t be beyond expectation that a judge could see it the same way,” Howe said Friday.
He also questioned why Campsen would appoint a proxy if he believes his appointment is illegal.
“If that is his conviction, then why have someone in his place?” he said. “This seems to be a half-hearted decision with one foot in the pool.”
Limehouse, the airport board chairman, said everyone is entitled to his opinion.
“I’m not certain that it is unconstitutional,” he said. “I’m going to wait to hear from the judge to decide the case.”
A hearing has been set for 9:30 a.m. Oct. 22 in Charleston County Court of Common Pleas.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.