MOUNT PLEASANT — The expanding needs of Charleston International Airport caused its oversight agency to consider bringing an attorney on staff Wednesday.
The Charleston County Aviation Authority legal committee met for 90 minutes to talk about the necessity of adding a full-time lawyer.
In the end, the committee members didn’t make a recommendation and decided they needed more information. They directed airports director Sue Stevens to come back at a future meeting with information about how comparable airports handle their legal counsel, including compensation.
The airport terminal building will undergo a $150 million renovation later this year and the issues the agency faces might require more legal attention as it continues to expand, several committee members said.
The meeting was prompted by a letter from current attorney Arnold Goodstein, who earns $235,000 a year in that role and is not on a contract, according to airport officials. The specifics of the letter were not made public. Goodstein has represented the Aviation Authority for about 20 years.
Committee members did not discuss Goodstein’s desires or the contents of the letter, but instead kept the conversation about the general need for full-time legal representation.
The consensus of the committee was that the airport needs an in-house attorney. “If I had to structure it now, I would take that 20 years, take it in-house and have someone on call,” said Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey agreed, saying the Aviation Authority is not the same sleepy policy-making body it was five years ago, especially since Boeing Co. set up jet-building operations on airport property.
“On occasion, when you are dealing with a 900-pound gorilla, there may be a need to bring in someone else,” Summey said. “The money we have spent in legal fees has helped us save money in other areas.”
Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor agreed.
“In-house, I believe is the best way to go,” Pryor said. “It’s not the little agency is used to be.”
Former U.S. Rep. Tommy Hartnett disagreed with most members of the committee, saying he didn’t think they should hire someone in-house.
Money to pay for an in-house lawyer would have to come from the airport’s budget, which is up for approval May 15.
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.