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Lawmakers to reinstate airport board seats

  • Updated
Lawmakers to reinstate airport board seats

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey. (Leroy Burnell/Staff/File)

Lawmakers on Tuesday pledged to correct a law passed last year that mistakenly removed North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and two others from the Charleston County Aviation Authority.

The error occurred when parts of the state’s aeronautics law were eliminated as the General Assembly overhauled it, according to Rep. Brian White, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He sponsored the bill.

“Sometimes when you rewrite codes you have those misfortunes,” White said Tuesday. “There are oversights, and things happen. The good thing is we have the ability to go back and correct it.”

The affected airport board members were Summey, House appointee Spencer Pryor and Senate appointee Pat Waters. Their seats were not included in the original legislation that set up the authority in 1970 but were added later through amendments to the aeronautics code.

The law that removed them has been in effect since June, but no one bothered to tell the Aviation Authority.

The agency first learned of the mistake late last week when former state lawmaker Walter Hundley alluded to it while sitting in on a meeting for former board chairman and state Rep. Chip Limehouse, who is running for Congress.

“We were not informed about that,” Authority Chairman Andy Savage said Tuesday. “We were surprised with the legislation.”

Limehouse, who continues to be a member of the Aviation Authority but sends proxies while he runs for higher office, called it a “mistake and an oversight.” He said he plans to introduce legislation this week to correct the error.

Authority attorney Arnold Goodstein said the affected members can continue to serve.

“They are members until somebody says they aren’t members,” Goodstein said.

When Summey first learned of the news he said he hoped that it was a legislative “screw up” that could be immediately corrected. The authority owns and operates Charleston International Airport, which is in North Charleston.

“It would be ludicrous not to have the mayor of the city where the airport is located not to be on the board,” Summey said.

Waters, too, hoped for a quick remedy.

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“My hope is it was an oversight and can be amended so we can continue to serve,” he said.

Pryor did not immediately return calls for comment.

Savage, the authority chairman, on Monday appointed a committee to determine if the board members’ mistaken removal has any effect on airport operations.

“No project or signed contract was in jeopardy, but we (are) going to be very cautious moving forward particularly with the financing aspect of the redevelopment,” Savage said.

He was referring to the upcoming $170 million bond issue to pay for the massive makeover of the airport’s 28-year-old terminal.

The airport authority has 13 members, but the original legislation that set up the agency placed seven members on the board. They included the mayor of Charleston, which helped develop airport property in 1931, the chairman of Charleston County Council, two members appointed by the House and two by the Senate, and a member appointed jointly by Charleston City Council and Charleston County Council.

In 1984, lawmakers amended the law so the mayor of North Charleston could serve by adding a section that called for counties with two municipalities that have a population over 50,000 to allow the mayors of both cities to serve.

In 1985, the law was amended again to add two more members: one appointed by the House and another appointed by the Senate and signed off on by the governor.

In 1998, lawmakers amended the enabling legislation to add the mayor of Mount Pleasant to the board.

In 2007, a law, co-crafted by Limehouse, placed the chairman and vice chairman of the Charleston County legislative delegation on the board. That law is currently being challenged in court as unconstitutional. It was not part of the aeronautics bill’s revamp last year.

It was also believed that the error affected the appointment of Mount Pleasant Mayor Billy Swails, but the section of law that appointed the mayor of Mount Pleasant in 1998 doesn’t appear to be included in the stricken sections of the aeronautics code.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or

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