Post and Courier
September 18, 2014

Charleston airport attorney could see $50,000 pay increase

Posted: 11/20/2013 09:00 p.m.


By Warren L. Wise

Charleston County Aviation Authority is poised to give its longtime attorney a healthy contract through June 2016 worth about $50,000 more a year than he currently earns, though some board members believe bids should be sought for legal services.

A draft copy of the proposed three-page agreement obtained by The Post and Courier and that airport board members will consider Thursday shows Summerville attorney Arnold Goodstein could reap more than $284,000 a year in salary and benefits.

The proposed contract calls for a fixed salary of $172,500 a year plus expenses that total more than $111,500. It’s also tied to cost-of-living increases.

The final contract might not look like the one proposed, Aviation Authority Executive Director Paul Campbell cautioned Wednesday.

“It’s in a state of morphing,” he said.

The terms could change, and the choice could be either a flat fee or the fixed rate plus benefits.

“The board will have to make that decision,” Campbell said.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, who sits on the 13-member Aviation Authority and drew up the proposed contract, said Goodstein’s institutional knowledge of working with the Aviation Authority for 20 years makes him highly qualified for the payment being recommended.

“There has been a lot of work going on with Boeing and a lot more hours have been put in dealing with that,” Summey said. “The number of hours put in has been more than the norm and that’s likely to continue. I would like to have him locked in for a few more years.”

Summey said he didn’t think it is necessary to go out for bids because Goodstein has built relationships with professional people in the aviation industry over the past two decades that would be lost if the airport board brought on a different lawyer.

“If we were bringing in a new attorney, it would put us at a disadvantage,” he said. “I don’t think there is anybody in the Charleston area who has the qualifications in aeronautics that he has.”

Bids?

Board member Tommy Hartnett believes the agency should follow its procurement code, which he said requires it to go out for bids.

“It’s just not the way things should be done,” said Hartnett, a former congressman.

Hartnett also said the contract should have gone through the board’s legal committee, on which he sits, and wanted to know why it didn’t.

Authority Chairman Andy Savage said the former chairman appointed a legal committee a couple of years ago to look into a contract for the agency’s attorney, but it didn’t issue a report.

Savage said he appointed an ad hoc committee, chaired by Summey, to study the issue.

“I pushed a little bit harder this year, not so much for a contract but for what would be appropriate,” Savage said.

The ad hoc committee, made up of Summey, Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor and former judge Larry Richter, will meet at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Savage, a Charleston attorney, said while the specifics of the contract can be worked out, he said it is important to have a contract because it provides stability.

He also said Goodstein, 69, would be looking at retirement one day and it will soon be time for the agency to start thinking about bringing in someone to work with him for the long-term good of the Aviation Authority.

“I’m not pushing him out the door, but we have to be concerned about the future and continuity and somebody who can step in when we are all gone,” Savage said.

That’s not part of the proposal, just something for the board to start thinking about, Savage said.

As for the contract proposal, he said, “I’m not convinced it will come out at the end how it went in at the beginning.”

Savage also said the agency has promoted from within in the past and it is not necessary to seek bids on legal services.

“We have so much corporate history with this individual,” he said. “He has connections with the FAA and other regulatory agencies, whether it be the TSA or Homeland Security people. He has innate knowledge.”

Legal fees

Goodstein said a flat fee worked well for him until a few years ago when work got much more complicated because of the $189 million terminal makeover at Charleston International and the arrival of Boeing on airport property.

He said the number of hours he has worked on airport matters during the past year has driven his legal fee “down to $106 an hour.” He said it’s not unusual for attorneys with his aviation expertise to make $345 an hour or more.

As for going out for bids on legal services, he said, “You don’t generally bid professional services, and the FAA doesn’t allow it.”

If the contract is approved, the Aviation Authority would reimburse Goodstein $2,000 a month in office rent and $3,000 a month for office staff, as well as provide $700 a month as a vehicle allowance instead of furnishing him a car or paying mileage.

In addition, because Goodstein is a veteran, he will be offered 25 percent of the fixed salary in lieu of medical and retirement benefits, according to the draft contract. That comes out to $43,125. The expenses total about $111,500.

The contract would stay in effect for one year after June 2016 unless either Goodstein or the Aviation Authority gives notice within 90 days of its expiration.

If the airport agency decides to terminate the contract without cause, the authority must pay Goodstein 24 months of severance pay or the remaining months of the contract if termination occurs within the last 24 months of the service period.

“I think it’s a good contract,” Summey said.

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