HICKS COLUMN: A turbulent forecast for the airport
Give Chip Campsen credit ó he tried.
Earlier this week, it appeared the state senator had single-handedly defused the war over control of the Charleston County Aviation Authority. All because he broke rank and brought a little nonpartisan statesmanship to the table.
Campsen has a say, and a seat on the board, because by law the Charleston legislative delegationís chair and vice chair get one ó and heís vice chairman. But Campsen thinks thatís unconstitutional, as a pending lawsuit contends. In a letter to airports director Sue Stevens on Friday, Campsen gave the plaintiffs the argument they need to win and used his position to change the boardís makeup.
For a minute, it appeared his studied and selfless gesture would lead to a truce between locals and lawmakers.
But when the board meets today, those guys may still be going at it.
This all started weeks ago when former Charleston Councilman Tim Mallard ó acting as Campsenís proxy ó moved to give state Rep. Chip Limehouse, board chairman, sole discretion to fire Stevens. The motion passed.
Mayors Joe Riley and Keith Summey cried foul, and eventually Limehouse gave in. The board unanimously chucked that policy Monday.
By then, rumor had it that the mayors were lining up votes to oust Limehouse today, when his term expires. Limehouse says he didnít surrender his firing powers because of that. Itís a good thing, because apparently it did no good.
Last week, Campsen took Mallard off the board. He conceded he wasnít happy with the move to give Limehouse absolute power, but denies that was the sole factor. Mallard was always just an interim appointment.
That move calmed the anti-Limehouse sentiment somewhat. For a moment. When Limehouse relinquished his power to fire Stevens, things got even quieter.
Some board members seemed content to compromise and extend his term as chairman until January ó by which time the courts may rule on the constitutionality of him holding a seat on the board. Good luck with that.
But other board members want Limehouse out now.
The rule of law
Campsen is a strong believer in separation of powers.
But heís in a tight spot. Even though he thinks itís unconstitutional for him or Limehouse to sit on the board, current law says they or their proxies must serve. So he appointed former lawmaker Ben Hagood, a good choice.
ďItís the only way I saw to honor the rule of law and honor my oath to uphold the constitution,Ē Campsen says.
Several board members agree, and think anything they do while Limehouse is chairman could be voided if the courts declare it unconstitutional for him to sit on the board.
But now two factions are three: Limehouse, the board members who want to ride this out quietly, and those who want to oust Limehouse.
None of them are sure how this will play out today. But most of them realize that, bottom line, all this fighting is bad for business.
Follow Brian Hicks on Twitter at @BriHicks_PandC.