McComb officials called into question the actions of the McComb-Pike County Airport Board following a tornado that caused major damage that needed repairing, saying the board lacked a quorum to handle business.
The seven-member airport board has three city appointees, three county appointees and one joint appointment. At board meetings, at least four members must be present in order to conduct business.
The board has two vacancies and two of the city’s appointees didn’t show for a recent meeting for a vote to make emergency repairs to the airport following an tornado on Nov. 27 that damaged a hangar, a fuel tank, the office building and roofing.
The airport board met the week after the tornado with three members and two absent. Board president Robert Hensarling said the board’s attorney said it would be OK to meet with three of the five members. After the meeting, Hensarling sent emails to the absent members to tell them of the decision.
The city board countered that state law requires going by the total number of seats on the board, not just the number of active members.
Hensarling disagreed, asking for the city board’s attorney, who was absent, to draft a letter telling the airport board how to proceed.
“You will receive the minutes, and you can read them correctly,” he said.
Selectman Devante Johnson questioned the validity of the airport board’s actions.
“What I am trying to get to is that you guys are operating without a quorum and handling business. Are you following the appropriate bid laws and things like that? I mean, you’re not even operating with a quorum,” Johnson said. “You’re mailing out votes! That is not how we handle business!”
Hensarling said the airport board did not ask for the absent members to vote after the fact. Instead, he sent them what was voted on and asked their opinion.
Only Jeff Daughdrill, who recently resigned, answered.
Hensarling said that the last purchase the airport board made that required a bid occurred after Selectman Donovan Hill pressed the matter.
“This board knows that certain things should’ve taken place that haven’t taken place. Your board may not know,” Selectman Ronnie Brock said. “If it was an emergency, it should have been spread across your minutes. We clearly know there are enough people on your board for a quorum.
“We are not going to go to jail. We don’t want the airport board to go to jail because of inappropriate spending of funds.”
Johnson accused the airport board of spending taxpayer money without a quorum. Hensarling pushed back, noting that insurance paid for the tornado repairs.
Hensarling noted that it would be impossible for the airport board to meet with four of seven because of absenteeism from some unnamed members. The city board noted that it would fill its two empty seats as soon as next week. Hensarling said that it is important to appoint people who “have the airport’s best interest” in mind.
“We are capable of putting proper people on that board. It is kind of an insult to sit here and hear you say to make sure to put proper people on there when you don’t know if you have got a quorum,” Brock shot back.
Hensarling said there should be a legal opinion rather than the opinions of the two boards.
“I would ask respectfully for a letter from the city attorney instructing us how to proceed,” Hensarling said.
“I think we are already past that because you guys have already passed some things,” Johnson replied.
Hensarling interrupted, noting that those were emergency repairs that would have been needed with or without the airport board.
The city board decided to have board attorney Angela Cockerham draft a letter to the airport board, informing it how to move forward. Cockerham attended part of the meeting by phone but was not present for the airport discussion.