Residents file suit over Paulding airport authority closed sessions

Six residents have filed suit alleging the Paulding County Airport Authority violated the state open meetings act by improperly holding closed sessions and failing to give adequate notice to the public of a two-day retreat where they discussed plans to commercialize their airport.

The suit alleges the authority held the retreat outside the county without sufficient notice and violated the law by failing to provide minutes of the retreat until six months later. The suit also alleges that during the nearly year-long period that the Paulding airport authority quietly developed a plan to commercialize the airport, the authority at four separate meetings went into closed sessions without properly giving the reasons for closing the meeting.

The residents filed suit against the airport authority and each of the authority’s board members: airport director Blake Swafford, authority chairman Calvin Thompson, Paulding County chairman David Austin, Hiram mayor Doris Devey, Dallas mayor Boyd Austin Jr., Paulding Chamber president Carolyn Wright and authority members Alan Shipp, James Underwood, Kerry Tidmore and Ellis Astin.

The plaintiffs — residents Anthony Avery, Bob Board, Mary Board, Janice Louie, Jordan Louie and Sue Wilkins — represented by Atlanta attorney Charles McKnight are asking for civil penalties of $1,000 on each defendant and for the court to bar the airport authority from future violations of the open meetings act.

Swafford said after learning last year “that we weren’t exactly documenting our closed sessions exactly the best way” that the airport authority has “already made quite a few changes.”

The lawsuit filed this week is the fourth legal challenge by Paulding residents who oppose the idea of airline service coming to their airport. The airport authority last fall announced plans to attract airline service to the Paulding airport as part of a larger strategy to attract businesses and create jobs.

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