Airport panel grounds request for extra legal staff

A Charleston airport panel Wednesday nixed a request from Charleston County Aviation Authority attorney Arnold Goodstein to add a paralegal to the agency’s staff to handle administrative legal matters.

A Charleston airport panel grounded a request for a new legal assistant for the attorney Wednesday.

Charleston County Aviation Authority’s Finance Committee nixed the $50,000 position that was tucked into the $39.3 million spending plan for 2015-16 just before it passed in May.

Airport attorney Arnold Goodstein wanted a paralegal to be added to help out with his duties, but the Finance Committee didn’t mince words about the request or it being added to the current spending plan.

“It’s totally inappropriate,” said committee chairman Billy Swails, the former mayor of Mount Pleasant. “If you need a paralegal, you need to ask for more pay or pay for it out of your pocket.”

Committee members Henry Fishburne and Linda Page, the current mayor of Mount Pleasant, agreed with Swails.

“I have never really seen the need for this position,” Fishburne, a former Charleston City Council member, said.

Page said if there is extra administrative work needed, “I don’t know why it would go to legal.”

Committee member Walter Hundley, an attorney, added, “It’s not in the normal structure of our operation.”

He suggested the director and the attorney come up with another approach if more administrative help is needed for legal counsel.

Goodstein, who earns $250,000 a year as the airport attorney after receiving a $16,000 pay boost in January 2014, said he requested the slot because his duties have become more full time at the airport as its operations grow more complicated.

“The position was really similar to the clerk to County Council or the cities,” Goodstein said.

Swails said those duties are now handled by the administrative assistants to the board and the director and that’s where they should remain.

The committee agreed to hear a new recommendation at a later date before taking it to the full airport board for consideration.

Also, when the new airport administrative offices open in the expanded terminal by August, an office will be set aside for the attorney, Airports Director Paul Campbell said.

Goodstein said he plans to use it for meetings if necessary, but he hoped the paralegal would be posted there.

If Goodstein has an office at the airport, Campbell said there is a question of whether he would be considered a full-time employee, requiring benefits other than a salary. He is not a full-time employee.

“I’m an independent contractor, and I like it that way,” Goodstein said. “I don’t think they want me to be full time either because they don’t want to pay for it.”

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