Airport board members sparred Monday over social media posting and the officers to be elected for the next year.
Member Lynn Martin questioned whether the bylaws should reflect the offices of secretary and treasurer being combined.
Earlier in the year, the board gave treasurer Craig Haskins the title of secretary in order to have someone filling the office, since it was listed in the bylaws, and both Martin and member Ed Silence had raised concerns about the lack of a secretary to that point.
Other members of the board said they saw no need to elect a secretary, with Tracy Creel of Neel-Schaffer being paid to keep minutes for board meetings.
Treasurer is also a light-duty office for the board, with Haskins empowered to sign checks, but accountant Hal Holloway paid to receive bills, manage bank accounts and produce financial reports.
Board President Bob Hensarling said both the board’s attorney, Robin Dickerson, and the county supervisors’ attorney, Wayne Dowdy, had told him combining the offices in the bylaws is not necessary for anyone to hold both titles.
“They have said that we can do what we need to do,” Hensarling said.
The board approved the sitting slate of officers, including Hensarling, Haskins and Vice President Oliver Smith, who was absent. The vote was 5-0, with Martin voting with Haskins, Hensarling, Mitch Dorr and Eric Lewis. Silence was absent at the time.
Silence arrived in time for a discussion on the use of social media by board members.
He and Hensarling clashed previously over Silence’s use of a Facebook page, “The unofficial public ... airport board McComb/Pike,” with Hensarling saying that some of the posts were inaccurate and caused confusion about the condition and availability of the airport.
Hensarling proposed an amendment to the bylaws prohibiting board members from posting derogatory or negative information about the airport, staff or board on a social media site while purporting to be representative of the airport or board as a whole.
He said he based the proposed policy on a policy adopted by the city of McComb recently.
Martin noted that the city policy applies to employees, not board members, and questioned the value of adding the policy to the bylaws.
“The bylaws tell us what offices we are supposed to have, but we can ignore that,” Martin said. “But, we adopt this policy into the bylaws, and we can’t say what we want about board meetings?”
Silence took issue with the couching of the issue, which was listed on the agenda as “use of airport funds to block any airport board members from posting to social media.”
“We were thinking ahead that, if we had to take action against an individual, we would have to get an injucntion in court, and that would carry a cost,” Hensarling said.
He said posts by Silence on the unofficial page he created which called for Hensarling’s resignation, questioned inspection readiness and which reported airport lights out — rather than lights on nearby radio or cell phone towers — confused pilots and the public about the operations of the airport.
He said economic development officials had called to express concern about the public squabbling among board members and the conflicting information from different sources.
“When the post asking whether the airport would pass an inspection was made, it had just passed an inspection weeks before,” Hensarling said. “If you accept a position on the board, you should have a legal, ethical and moral obligation to support the airport.”
Silence pointed out the name of his Facebook page says “unofficial” in the title, and he asked how his posts could be harmful to the airport.
“What pilot goes to Facebook for information about the airport? I thought they had specific sites to go to,” Silence said. “How is it negative to ask if the airport can pass an inspection if it just passed an inspection?”
Hensarling said he wouldn’t answer that, and Silence said, “Yeah, you can’t say, because you don’t know ... This is freedom of information, to get as much out as possible.”
The dispute, with frequent bouts of multiple members talking at once, died down and ended with a 4-2 vote in favor of adopting the policy. Martin and Silence voted against.