Judge could rule soon on airport board member lawsuit
A judge heard arguments Thursday and could soon rule on a lawsuit brought against state lawmakers who serve on the Charleston County Aviation Authority.
Circuit Judge Markley Dennis heard the case.
Charleston attorney Waring Howe and the S.C. Public Interest Foundation sued Rep. Chip Limehouse, House Speaker Bobby Harrell, both of Charleston, and others, alleging, among other things, that the General Assembly violated the Constitution by passing legislation specific to one county.
The law, co-crafted in 2007 by Limehouse, placed the chairman and vice chairman of Charleston County legislative delegation on the Aviation Authority. Limehouse has alternately served in both capacities for several years.
Attorneys for the defendants argued, among other things, that Howe and the S.C. Public Interest Foundation do not have legal standing to bring the suit because the plaintiffs were not directly affected by the law.
Edward Sloan, a retired paving contractor behind the Public Interest Foundation, lives in the Upstate, not Charleston County, attorneys said. They also claim Howe, as a county resident and taxpayer, has no basis to sue because the airport receives no county taxes.
It does receive federal funding and levies bonds to cover its debt.
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 as his proxy on the Aviation Authority while he campaigns for Congress.
Limehouse believes the law is constitutional.
Sen. Chip Campsen of Charleston, who serves as vice chairman of the delegation, 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 declined to sit on the board.
Because the law states the vice chairman or his proxy can serve on the airport board, Campsen appointed former state lawmaker Ben Hagood to take his place.