The way Charleston airport officials hire their attorney is likely going to change.
Starting with the next budget year in July, Charleston County Aviation Authority will most likely seek bids for legal expertise.
That move came as part of a unanimous decision Thursday to give longtime airport attorney Arnold Goodstein a 6.5 percent boost in his annual flat fee, raising his pay to just over $250,000, effective immediately. He will continue to serve as chief legal counsel for the agency, as he has for the past 20 years, through a verbal agreement, at least through June.
The airport board said it will re-evaluate how it hires outside legal help and formalize the process when it starts working on its next annual spending plan in April. The discussion consumed most of the nearly three-hour meeting that at some points devolved into personality clashes over procedural issues and outside open records requests on the periphery of the debate.
Goodstein said he appreciated the board’s vote of confidence in his skills and would apply if the board decides to seek bids for legal work, as the agency’s procurement manual mandates.
“I enjoy representing the Aviation Authority,” Goodstein said. “I have for years.”
As part of the budget process as well, Aviation Authority Chairman Andy Savage wants the board to consider hiring a back-up attorney for in-house use. He wants to begin grooming someone for the eventual retirement of Goodstein, 69, who as a Vietnam veteran has been deemed 100 percent disabled by Veterans Affairs but able to work like countless other veterans.
Goodstein, twice a Bronze Star recipient, suffers from the lingering effects of Agent Orange, a defoliant used in warfare, and other ailments. He walks with a cane, suffers from heart problems and has arthritic knees. His right hip has been replaced. He has scars on his hand and head from shrapnel or bullet wounds.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, a member of the airport board, moved to give Goodstein the raise and keep him on as legal counsel under the current working at-will arrangement with the understanding that the board will revisit the issue when it takes up spending outlays for the upcoming budget year.
Former S.C. first lady Jenny Sanford, a new member of the board, said it was important the issue be rectified now that it’s been brought to light to bring the board above reproach.
Summey also agreed with Savage that the board needs to start thinking about hiring a second attorney.
“We need to get ready for when this gentleman (Goodstein) decides to leave,” Summey said.
His move to retain Goodstein came after the board tried in November to give Goodstein a $30,000-a-year raise and a three-year contract.
That’s when several board members questioned the idea of a contract and suggested the board follow its procurement manual to seek bids for professional services.
The led to calls for an opinion for an outside attorney and the state attorney general on whether to seek bids. The outside attorney, Amy Jenkins, said the board had to follow its rules. The Attorney General’s office said the airport panel doesn’t fall under the state procurement law but under its own rules. It had no opinion on the agency’s policy.
Savage preferred a contract for Goodstein or whoever the airport’s attorney will be because it would specifically spell out the lawyer’s duties.
“I think we ought to get it right,” he said. “To continue as we are is a terrible policy.”
Board member Mallory Factor preferred that the attorney be hired as an employee of the agency and work at the airport full-time.
The issue, while temporarily resolved, will surface again during budget talks.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.