Judge could rule soon on airport board member lawsuit
A judge on Thursday heard arguments on a lawsuit brought against state lawmakers who serve on Charleston County Aviation Authority.
Circuit Judge Markley Dennis said he would rule soon on the case.
Charleston attorney Waring Howe and the S.C. Public Interest Foundation sued Rep. Chip Limehouse of Charleston, then-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 last year.
Howe and Edward Sloan Jr., an Upstate retired paving contractor behind the Public Interest Foundation, claim, among other things, the General Assembly violated state law by passing legislation specific to one county.
Attorneys for the defendants argued that Howe and S.C. Public Interest Foundation do not have legal standing to bring the suit because the plaintiffs were not directly affected by the law, co-crafted in 2007 by Limehouse. The law appointed the chairman and vice chairman of the Charleston County legislative delegation to the Charleston County Aviation Authority.
Limehouse serves as chairman of the delegation and, until January, was chairman of the airport board, which owns and operates the county’s three airports.
Limehouse continues to hold a seat on the board, but he has appointed retired Maj. Gen. Jim Livingston, a Medal of Honor recipient, as his proxy on the Aviation Authority.
Howe and Sloan maintain the law is unconstitutional.
Since the lawsuit was filed, McConnell, who was vice chairman of the delegation, became lieutenant governor. The new vice chairman of the delegation is Sen. Chip Campsen of Charleston. He replaces McConnell in the suit.
Campsen dealt the case a blow in September when he sent a letter to the Aviation Authority saying he believes the legislation is unconstitutional because it “likely violates the separation of powers doctrine ... of the South Carolina Constitution” and “violates the constitutional prohibition against dual office-holding.” He declines to sit on the board.
Because the law states the vice chairman or his proxy can serve on the airport board, Campsen appointed attorney and former state lawmaker Ben Hagood to take his place.
Limehouse believes the law is constitutional.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.