Aviation Authority tries to put lawyer controversy to rest

By Andy Owens
aowens@scbiznews.com
Published April 21, 2014

The Charleston County Aviation Authority agreed to a plan last Thursday that clarifies how it retains legal services but allows the board to keep its longtime attorney during an extensive redevelopment project at the airport.

Jenny Sanford, chairwoman of the Aviation Authority’s professional services committee, offered four possible options after having undertaken an extensive look at how other similar municipalities and airports contract for legal services.

The board ratified a plan that would keep attorney Arnold Goodstein in place for the duration of the Charleston International Airport’s redevelopment project but puts a more transparent process in place before the next fiscal year begins.

The status of legal services for the Aviation Authority has been an ongoing discussion that began last year when an employment attorney recommended the board should ask for bids before awarding a contract for legal services.

In January, Chairman Andy Savage said the authority had been working under a process that was more informal but he wanted to follow the recommendation and go to a more transparent process.

Sanford said the board could decide to do nothing, which she and the committee would not recommend.

“It does not seem to be in compliance,” Sanford said, referring to the board’s procurement policy.

Sanford also said that Goodstein’s extensive knowledge of the authority’s operations was valuable, but she added that he’s a one-person operation and a lot of that knowledge would need to be transferred if he decides to retire.

Two rejected options included changing the procurement code so that the informal agreement was considered to be in compliance or hiring Goodstein as an employee. Sanford said that would likely make him the highest-paid employee at the airport.

Goodstein was given a 6.5% raise in January that put his salary near $250,000 a year.

Another option would be to send out a request for qualifications for services, which would allow attorneys, including Goodstein, to submit their qualifications for the job.

The fourth option, which the board adopted with provisions, was to wait until the appropriate time to open the job up for bid.

Board member R. Walter Hundley, who is an attorney himself, immediately endorsed the fourth option as long as the authority could find a way to keep Goodstein solidly in place while the redevelopment project is underway.

He and others said Goodstein’s experience and contacts in the industry helped create a sense of stability while working with municipalities, airlines, multiple contractors and Boeing Co.

“Just to use a general analogy, it would be very foolish to change lawyers in the middle of a court case, in the middle of a trial,” Hundley said. “That’s essentially what we’re tasked with here. We have a $200 million project. There are still more issues to come. With an anticipated completion date of Aug. 15, we got a responsibility to get this thing done.”

The vote that passed does the following: Goodstein stays on until Paul Campbell, the airports’ director, tells the Aviation Authority that the redevelopment project is far enough along that he feels comfortable opening up bidding for legal services.

The motion also puts the salary for a staff attorney in next year’s budget and gives Campbell the discretion to hire for that position as he sees fit anytime during the next fiscal year.

Sanford’s committee also proposed the board hire a full-time lawyer to be on staff at the airport to deal with day-to-day issues that arise. She said the current legal services contract is for board-related issues.

Reach Andy Owens at 843-849-3142.

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