Artist rendering of the potential privatized Briscoe Field. Artwork provided by whyprivatizebriscoe.com.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- County officials made a behind-the-scenes "consensus" decision last week to move forward with a controversial airport privatization process.
With accusations of violating the state's sunshine laws, commissioners voted Tuesday to follow the speediest option available for the controversial privatization process that could open Briscoe Field to commercial flights -- a decision that three board members had told staffers about last week outside of a public meeting.
Chairwoman Charlotte Nash said the move a week ago violated the trust of an electorate rocked by ethical concerns a year ago that resulted in the resignation of the previous chairman and indictment of a commissioner.
"This was done outside the light of a public setting," Nash said. "This is a bigger issue than just the airport to me. We are falling into a trap of doing things the way that has been done in the past. ... The least you can do is hear it publicly, so no matter what people think about the issue, at least they don't have to say it was done in a back room."
Nash said she only learned of the informal decision in passing and canceled a planned anniversary trip with her husband to attend Tuesday's session after finding out.
"No one had the courtesy to discuss the situation with me," she said.
But the three commissioners who supported moving forward in May -- Shirley Lasseter, Lynette Howard and Mike Beaudreau -- once again voted Tuesday to draft a request for proposals. This formalized the "consensus" reached a week ago to move forward with a process that could have the county negotiating with a private operator by the end of the year.
While at least one of three qualified companies seeking to privatize the general aviation airport has said it wants to allow commercial flights, no specific proposals have been submitted.
After May's 3-2 vote to allow the commercial option to remain despite a public outcry, the three commissioners complained that a request for proposals had not been issued all summer. In fact, Beaudreau said the delay was "borderline insubordination" by the county staff.
"It seems like we are going back to the future. The vote was taken," Beaudreau said.
Howard said she was disappointed in the report because she had expected it to include the awaited request for proposals. Instead, the report recommended commissioners state a clear goal -- commercialization or not -- before moving forward and gave four options, urging caution.
Howard made a motion to set up a meeting with IMG leaders for commissioners to ask questions. If a quorum of commissioners attends, the meeting is expected to be held in public within the next two weeks.
The board also echoed a May vote that set up a citizens committee to review the process and make recommendations about the airport.