Despite legal battle, Charlotte Council names 4 to airport commission

Despite legal battle, Charlotte Council names 4 to airport commission

Despite legal battle, Charlotte Council names 4 to airport commission

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by STEVE HARRISON / The Charlotte Observer

WCNC.com

Posted on September 23, 2013 at 9:41 PM

Updated Monday, Sep 23 at 10:45 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Facing an Oct. 1 deadline, the Charlotte City Council made four appointments Monday night to the newly created Airport Commission that it vows to fight in court.

The four appointments mean there are now nine members of the 13-member commission, which creates a quorum. If the FAA allows the commission to hold an operating certificate for Charlotte Douglas International Airport, it would be in charge of daily operations and long-term airport plans.

Council members unanimously voted to appoint: Pamela Bennett, a Bank of America executive and current member of the Airport Advisory Committee; Robert Stolz, a former chair of the N.C. Chamber of Commerce and chief executive of the Wurth Group North America; Pam Syfert, a former Charlotte City manager, and Anthony Fox, an attorney with Parker Poe and former board member of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority.

Fox is not related to former mayor Anthony Foxx, who is now U.S. Secretary of Transportation.

Mayor Patsy Kinsey has three appointments to make. She said she will name those commission members by the end of the month.

Mecklenburg County Commissioners are also required to name a member to the commission.

Council members had debated in closed session whether to make the appointments, which some feared would give the commission legitimacy. During the meeting, City Attorney Bob Hagemann said he advised council members to comply in part because it is state law.

“I believe this action serves two purposes,” Hagemann said. “It shows respect and compliance with the law. It ensures if and when there is anything for the commission to do, you are represented.”

He added that the council’s decision “doesn’t legitimize this.”

This summer, the GOP-led General Assembly created an independent authority to own and operate the airport. After the city sued and received a temporary restraining order against the authority, legislators repealed the authority bill and created a commission. Under that legislation, the city still owns the airport, but the 13-member commission would run it.

The city has sued to stop the commission as well.

In early August, a Superior Court Judge said the decision as to who should run the airport rests with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA has given no public indication as to when it will make a decision on the airport.

Mayor Pro Tem Patrick Cannon, who is running for mayor, said the city will continue to “vigorously pursue” challenges to the commission.

The agenda item for the appointments was added to the council’s agenda Monday afternoon. The names of the nominees weren’t released to the public until moments before council members nominated them.

Gaston, Union, Iredell, Cabarrus and Lincoln counties had already made appointments to the commission.

Gaston appointed County Commissioner Chad Brown, who sells architectural coatings for PPG Industries; Iredell named Jim Lawton, a former Statesville City Council member and president of Kivett Oil Co.; Union selected James Allen Lee, an attorney with Helms Robinson & Lee who specializes in estate planning and real estate law; Lincoln appointed Tom Anderson, the chairman of the board of the Lincoln Economic Development Association; and Cabarrus picked Realtor Leonard Lancaster.

Stadium financing approved

In other action, council members approved the financing of $28 million to help pay for renovations at Bank of America Stadium in 2014. The money will be given to the Carolina Panthers as part of an $87.5 million incentive package that binds the team in Charlotte for six years.

The city plans to spend $23.5 million for stadium improvements in fiscal year 2016 and $23.5 million in fiscal year 2018.

Council members also declined to investigate an ethics complaint filed by four activists who argued the City Council violated the state’s open meetings laws when meeting in closed session to negotiate with the Panthers.

The complaint was filed by Bruce Bowers, Mike Cozza, Ken Koontz and Wayne Powers. They have filed a lawsuit against the city, and Hagemann advised council members to let the issue play out in court.

The four men lost a similar lawsuit earlier this year. That lawsuit was also related to whether the city violated the open meetings laws.

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