Judge refuses to toss airport board suit

Campsen

A judge denied a request Monday to toss a lawsuit brought against state lawmakers who serve on the Charleston County Aviation Authority.

Circuit Court Judge Markley Dennis ruled the case will go forward as attorneys still have to depose one of the principals in the case and substitute state Sen. Chip Campsen’s name for that of now-Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell.

The judge did not deny the motion to dismiss the case on its merits, but for procedural reasons.

Charleston attorney Waring Howe and the S.C. Public Interest Foundation sued Rep. Chip Limehouse of Charleston, then-Sen. Glenn McConnell of Charleston, who is now lieutenant governor, House Speaker Bobby Harrell of Charleston, and former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard in his capacity as Senate president before he resigned this year.

Howe and Edward Sloan Jr., a Upstate retired paving contractor behind the Public Interest Foundation, allege, among other things, the General Assembly violated state law by passing legislation specific to one county.

The law, co-crafted in 2007 by Limehouse, appointed the chairman and vice chairman of the Charleston County legislative delegation to the Charleston County Aviation Authority. Limehouse serves as chairman of the delegation and chairman of the Aviation Authority, which owns and operates the county’s three airports.

Howe and Sloan said the law is unconstitutional.

Since the lawsuit was filed, McConnell, who was vice chairman of the delegation, became lieutenant governor. The new vice chairman of the delegation is Campsen, and he will replace McConnell in the suit.

Campsen practically torpedoed the law in September when he sent a letter to the Aviation Authority saying he believes the legislation is unconstitutional because it “likely violates the separation of powers doctrine ... of the South Carolina Constitution” and “violates the constitutional prohibition against dual office-holding.”

Because the law states that the vice chairman or his proxy can serve on the airport board, Campsen appointed attorney and former state lawmaker Ben Hagood to take his place.

Limehouse believes the law is constitutional.

In seeking to dismiss the case, attorneys for the lawmakers cited a state Supreme Court ruling in an earlier case involving county-specific legislation. In that instance, the high court ruled that Sloan had no standing because he did not live in the affected counties.

But Sloan and Howe’s attorney argued this case is different because Howe lives in Charleston County and has an interest in the airport board’s makeup because he once served as its chairman.

Attorneys still must receive Sloan’s deposition Oct. 30 and add Campsen to the case.

No date was set for the next hearing.

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