Board members Harry Brady and Melissa James plus secretary-treasurer Linda Vaughn turned in their resignations last week, leaving just Randy Birchfield on the board.
“It all came down Monday or Tuesday and I haven’t seen the prosecutor,” Huron County Commissioner Skip Wilde said Friday morning. “We did get a ruling from him basically saying they would not defend the airport board. It is codified ordinance.”
Does that mean board members have no protection against legal action?
“I don’t know,” Wilde said. “Here’s the bottom line: We (the commissioners) do not make any decisions until we have a board meeting. We meet again Tuesday.”
Brady said the airport board had been receiving assistance from the Huron County Prosecutor’s Office regarding public record requests. He said he learned in an email from a concerned citizen that the attorney general’s office issued an opinion in 2015 that the board isn’t entitled to legal representation by county prosecutors because it’s not a county board.
“The airport board is appointed by the commissioners to run county property,” Brady added. “We would have to hire an attorney. … We effectively would pay for a lawsuit for a job we volunteer for.”
Brady said the board contacted the county prosecutor’s office and learned it would comply with the attorney general’s ruling.
Wayne County Prosecutor Daniel Lutz requested an opinion from Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office on “whether a regional airport authority created under (the Ohio Revised Code) 308.03 is a county office or board entitled to legal representation by a county prosecuting attorney.”
In late May 2015, DeWine’s office issued the following statement: “A board of trustees of a regional airport authority created pursuant to R.C. 308.02-.03 is not a county board for purposes of R.C. 309.09(A) and is not entitled to legal representation by the county prosecuting attorney, regardless of whether the regional airport authority is composed of a single county or multiple counties.”
James and Huron County Prosecutor James Joel Sitterly couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.
Wilde said things have been going well at the airport.
Brady had a slightly different outlook. He said the airport recently lost about $18,000 in revenue — $12,000 from Foghorn Designs moving to downtown Norwalk and another $6,000 from farm rent — due to “constant nitpicking.”
“It is very unfortunate because these people donate their time,” Wilde said in a separate interview, referring to the resignations. “One (board member) is left, Randy Birchfield. We have to fill those positions because you can’t have a board of one.”
Brady and James were on the board for about two years each. Vaughn was the secretary-treasurer for a year to 18 months.
“She (James) was finishing out a term. I was on a full term,” Brady said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Managing editor Joe Centers contributed to this story.