BY TYRONE RICHARDSON and WARREN L. WISE

trichardson@postandcourier.com wwise@postandcouriercom

After months of contention, the Charleston County Aviation Authority board has a plan to hire legal counsel for the agency.

The 13-member panel last week voted 8-2 to have agency Director Paul Campbell send out a request for qualifications for a staff attorney when he deems it is necessary during the next budget year, which starts July 1.

The staff attorney is in addition to the current outside legal counsel, Arnold Goodstein, who has served the agency for 20 years and is not under a contract. Goodstein will remain in place for now.

A majority of the board believes it would be inappropriate to change lawyers during the middle of the $189 million renovation and expansion of the aging terminal building.

"If we change - midstream - lawyers, it is going to create an atmosphere of additional unknown problems," said board member Walter Hundley. "At least now we know what we've got and what we are dealing with."

Some board members have asked the agency to follow its procurement code and receive bids for legal services.

The hiring of a staff attorney in addition to outside legal counsel, according to agency Chairman Andy Savage, would allow someone to learn the ropes of inner airport workings under Goodstein, as long as he remains outside legal counsel, or a new outside attorney if one is hired to replace Goodstein.

The board's decision followed a short presentation by board member Jenny Sanford, who recommended four options for the board.

They included maintaining the status quo or keeping Goodstein without a contract and hiring him as a staffer. The latter, she said, didn't pass the "smell test."

The other two options included seeking requests for qualifications for legal service as is or seeking requests for qualifications for modified services after bringing on a staff attorney.

The board chose the latter option but decided to keep Goodstein onboard while construction continues on the airport terminal. The airport overhaul is set to be completed in August 2015.

The decision on legal counsel had to be made before the agency begins talking about its spending plan for next year, which begins in July, Campbell said. Budget talks will begin in May.

Board members Mallory Factor and Tommy Hartnett voted against the plan. Both have voiced their concerns that the agency should follow its procurement manual. Hartnett also wanted the full board to be present for the discussion and vote.

Those who supported the measure included Sanford, Hundley, Teddie Pryor, Keith Summey, Joe Riley, Linda Page, Helen Hill and Spencer Pryor.

Absent were Larry Richter and Ellie Thomas, though Thomas was on the phone but not eligible to vote. Savage did not vote.