Law expert critical of commissioners' actions with airport proposals

LAWRENCEVILLE -- A Georgia sunshine law expert said it is unclear if the controversial actions of Gwinnett's commission to move forward earlier this month with a request for proposals for the county airport without a formal vote violated the law.

But in matters of public interest, officials should err on the side of sunshine, said Hollie Mannheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation.

"The point of the open meetings act is to allow the public to access to (sic) its public officials and how they conduct business," Mannheimer wrote in an email. "In this case, it is unclear whether a vote already had been taken on this issue or a new vote was required. To the extent a new vote was required, it should have taken place in the context for a public meeting.

"Any time a public agency takes a vote, it must do so in public," she said. "Private discussions among the various members of a public agency create, at a minimum, the perception of violations of the open meetings act."

Last week, Chairwoman Charlotte Nash revealed a "consensus" among three board members to move forward in the airport process.

Commissioners Mike Beaudreau, Shirley Lasseter and Lynette Howard said the matter was clear in May, when the three passed a motion to allow the proposals to include a plan to allow commercial flights out of Briscoe Field. But Nash said a consultant's report that gave four options for moving forward should have required another public vote.

She did not allege wrongdoing but said officials should be particularly mindful of sunshine laws in light of the ethics controversies that resulted in the resignation of the former chairman and indictment of a commissioner last year.

"This is a bigger issue than just the airport to me," Nash said at Tuesday's Board of Commissioners hearing. "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."

The commissioners said they did not intend to rush the decision, only to restart an undertaking that had stalled over the past year. They said they were offended by the accusations.

At Tuesday's meeting, they took a vote to formalize the "consensus," moving forward with the speediest of the consultant's three options, which could lead to the county choosing a private operator for Briscoe Field by the end of the year.


CitizenX 4 years ago

So even though the majority of people in the County are against it, the "Bannister three" decide that they know better and push it ahead. How about a vote from the citizens before you make another mistake like you did with the trash plan?


BufordGuy 4 years ago

Suggesting the trash plan was a mistake is like saying Obama's health care plan was a mistake. It's not good for us, but it was no mistake on Beaudreau's and Obama's parts. The plans worked out exactly the way they planned them.


davidinflowerybranch 4 years ago


Please provide your documentation for your statement that "the majority of people in the County are against it". Nevermind. It was rhetorical. You can't.

Simply because there is a very noisy minority that shows up at meetings called in the heart of the area that is closest to the airport does NOT demonstrate your assertion.

That would be like saying that whenever ANY rally was held for ANY cause (or against any cause) that the population at large matches the rally's desires.

It is simply ignorant and dishonest to make such statements without proof of such a statement.

The actual FACT is, backed up by polls, the VAST majority of the population of the Gwinnett is FOR the privatization AND commercialization of the airport.

If you have a properly executed poll that shows otherwise... please share it. Otherwise please refrain from making false and ignorant statements.


CD 4 years ago

David: I just did not see the "regualr citizen" standing up in support of the expansion. I did see the shills from Landmark and the Chamber present, however, at the last meeting. When I walked outside after the meeting I didn't see anyone protesting FOR the airport either. In truth, most are ambivilant in Gwinnett, at best, while those that will be affected the most in the surrounding communities and those that understand this is just more food for the developers and BOC/Chamber cronies are the ones that are heard.

Why even in the article/interview RE Rock Tenn, HJA is mentioned as a positive for the expansion and a reason for their decision to expand operations. No where was it mentioned that they were hoping for an expansion at Briscoe and that was a factor for them.

The average Gwinnett taxpayer does not need the Briscoe expansion, but the developers and cronies do. It really is that simple. To that end, I expect Nash to sway another vote or as far as I'm concerned, she has violated her pledge to the voters. And that's another point, David, with Nash's victory and the fact that Chaiman is a county-wide vote, it would seem that those in support of the expasion didn't let that stand in the way of their vote for Nash. Or perhaps the supporters didn't vote and obviously decided to forego protesting FOR the expansion as well.


davidinflowerybranch 4 years ago

CD. I have to disagree with your assessment that this benefits only developers and BOC "cronies".

The fact is, this county's ENTIRE economy has revolved around building more buildings, be they residential or commercial. It is actually a FACT that the biggest industry in this county (prior to the recent real estate "crash") was development/building/building supplies. And over the past 20 years the biggest fights that we've had in this county have been around zoning.

The airport being able to bring in 4 commercial flights an hour (compared with ~300 at Hartsfield so don't even go there) would make it a prime location for Fortune 1000 type companies to locate corporate HQs and/or operations centers in Gwinnett thereby bringing high tech and high paying white collar jobs to Gwinnett. Your characterization to the contrary does not hold up with that which has been experienced in other markets that have small commercial airports.

The average Gwinnett taxpayer DOES need the Briscoe modification (it is NOT an "expansion"). You are simply wrong. It would bring a boom to the county that would help fill all of the empty commercial properties from Buford to Snellville to Technology Park in Peachtree Corners.

Do you REALLY want the county to go the way of DeKalb? That's where we're heading without this airport usage being modified.

Or we could go the way of these areas:


Click above. Click on the Greenville/Spartanburg link. Page down to page 3.

Now tell me. Does that indicate that it only feeds a few BOC/Chamber cronies in the area? Hint: The answer to my question is NO.

Seriously. Do a bit of research before you make statements that are simply not true. You may wish them true... but my experience with wishing about things that are factually proven antithetical to the wish is that the wish is a waste of time and saying it over and over and over again won't make it true either.


CD 4 years ago

David, I have been involved in 6 to 12 asset buys yearly (essentially purchasing corporations) over the past 4 years for my employer. These businesses generate anywhere from 10-50 million/yr revenues. Not once, did the previous owner (s) select to locate a business based on a regional airport (incentives, abatements, labor supply, education, etc. but not one time was access to a reginal airport a factor.) I have yet to see any credible ecomomic study that would support airport expansion in Gwinnett. Period. If you look at this in practice, the results fall short. To say that Gwinnett will become Dekalb without the airport expansion leads me to believe a number of things indeed. Please press for a credible economic study that will support this or be honest and state your real motive here.


R 4 years ago

Sorry David, The assumption that opposition is located ONLY in the areas next to the airport is misleading and needs to stop. There are quite few of us rebels in YOUR neck of the woods too. Need an airfield by Flowery Branch? There’s one 2 exits up on 985 North and its proximity to 985 is IDEAL for commercial traffic with no additional road building required. Don’t see anyone beating down that door – are you a closet “NIMBY” by chance? The JOBS/ economic increases would be the same. The majority simply can’t be for commercial traffic if a firm that is attempting to get in has to go to a SOUTH Atlanta job fair to collect resumes and then asks these “applicants” to email Gwinnett Commissioners to approve the project. The Proof you seek of this fiasco can be found in WSB Channel 2 video archives. A job fair listing 400 jobs is attended by roughly 5,000 people. Folks stood for hours in heat for a chance at income only to be lobbied. This tactic may be barely legal, but do you want to make this entity a long term business partner? I just wonder how many of those 400 claimed openings were Propeller’s vaporware.


pjm123 4 years ago

You people are nuts! Do you how much revenue this would bring to this county? In case you haven't noticed this country is in a recession and almost depression(thanks to our current presidential administration). The county needs the money and the jobs it would bring. I believe that there a few "Not In My Backyard" folks that are mostly behind this anti airport rubbish. Guess what the airport was here probably before the houses. Don't like it move. As for the tax people. We throw away tons of money on education thanks to splost etc. and education never seems to improve. At least we would see a return on our dollar for this airport idea.


citized 4 years ago

I'm still waiting for the "big" return from statium. Or did you forget that promis?


R 4 years ago

The airport commercial traffic may be rammed though, Propeller may make a quick buck and be gone and then 36 months later, when low volume air traffic doesn’t deliver forecasted profits, (Remember the revenue claims forecast made by the chamber on the stadium vs. the reality delta) the bankrupt carrier will back out or merge, leaving the tax base in Gwinnett to clean up one heck of a mess. By this time, back on the ranch, the Stadium the county owns will be worn and the team will be looking for improvements or threaten to move to another locale (how did we get them out of Richmond VA again?) Then we have the perfect Fulton County like storm. Will we get the Olympics back so a new stadium can be built? We can’t afford to find out, sometimes the best move - is NOT to play …


R 4 years ago

PJM We could ask you to follow your own advice about moving, but you have a right to your position. While not living adjacent to the airport, I believe the county hasn’t handled this concept with anywhere near the professionalism required for such a profound change. There appears to be an artificial background timeframe for rushing this that can’t be publicly articulated. Finances can’t be an issue as rates will remain low through 2013. As with any investment with potential high return, there are in reality HIGH risks. This isn’t a bid for a park that could easily be redone if it goes FUBAR. It becomes a tax revenue black hole. The airfield could be closed, sold off for real estate to a private developer(s), made into a CID or a TAD, redeveloped into subdivisions, shopping malls, hotels and office parks (over about 10 years or so) which would create jobs. The issue that hasn’t been addressed is how much we’d be on the hook for in the interim. The downside failsafe must be discussed and no RFP that will come out in the next 90 days will request a definition of what the recovery path / cost will be if the project fails.


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