Arguably, no public board or agency in the Lowcountry has seen more turbulence over the past 18 months than the Charleston County Aviation Authority.
Among the turmoil, a controversial attempt to put the chairman in charge of the director in September 2012, the director's resignation in July of last year and the subsequent fight over hiring a new director.
Happening at the same time are an ongoing State Law Enforcement Division probe of alleged meddling of some board members over construction contracts, the $189 million expansion and renovation of the aging terminal and the infighting and nitpicking of some current board members.
At times it's been civil and cordial, but in some cases the monthly meetings of the highly politicized board have devolved into bedlam. A lot of it likely has to do with the board's makeup. And until that changes, it's a safe bet controversy isn't going away.
Originally set up with seven members in 1970, the panel has grown over the years, due to changes by state lawmakers, to a baker's dozen.
The group of 13 includes the mayors of Charleston County's three largest cities - Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant - where the authority operates its three airports. The authority also is made up of business leaders and political appointees by legislators.
The board includes lawyer Andy Savage, the current chairman; Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor; former judge Larry Richter; former congressman Tommy Hartnett; businessman Mallory Factor; North Charleston police spokesman Spencer Pryor; accountant Ellie Thomas; lawyer Walter Hundley; Convention and Visitors Bureau chief Helen Hill; and former S.C. first lady Jenny Sanford.
In 2007, Rep. Chip Limehouse of Charleston co-sponsored a bill to have the chairman and vice chairman of the county legislative delegation serve on the board. That brought the authority up to 13 members. Limehouse is chairman, and Sen. Chip Campsen is vice chairman of the delegation.
Limehouse also served as chairman of the airport board until January 2013. For most of the time since then, he has sent Thomas as his designee. Campsen refuses to serve on the board, saying it's unconstitutional for him to do so, but he sends a designee as well. In December, he appointed Sanford to the position.
A lawsuit challenging the legality of the 2007 bill is making its way through the appeals process. A bill in the General Assembly to rescind the law is in the hands of a compromise committee on which Limehouse sits, so no action is expected there anytime soon since Limehouse wants to wait for the court to act.
Through June 1, lawmakers will have a chance to shake up the board. Factor, Hartnett, Hill and Richter are all up for reappointment.
Hill was just appointed by the delegation in December to fill a vacancy, so she most likely will be reappointed.
As for the others, some of whom sometimes clash with some other members, lawmakers could take a second look.
Savage is up for reappointment, too, but his seat is appointed jointly by the city of Charleston and Charleston County Council. He, too, most likely will be reappointed if he wants the job.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.
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