Menominee Commissioners Walk Out of Airport Meeting
A brief but explosive meeting of Twin County Airport of Commissioners adjourned abruptly Tuesday, July 15, when the two Menominee County representatives walked out with almost none of the Commissions monthly business taken care of.
With a quorum no longer present, Chair Nick Lakari, a Marinette County Supervisor, declared the meeting adjourned. However, he, Marinette County Supervisor Ted Sauve, Marinette County At-large Commissioner Mary Johns, and Airport Manager Tony Krysiak did not immediately leave the table.
Mary Marinegro, a news reporter for a Menominee County newspaper, placed a tape recorder on the table, and Krysiak allegedly crashed it off.
If you broke that, you will pay for it, Marinegro declared. If youre going to sit here and discuss things after adjournment, I think I have every right to tape it! She said she had placed the recorder there so everyone would know they were being recorded, and threatened lawsuit over violating the open meetings law by continuing the meeting after adjournment.
Issue that led to departure of Menominee County Commissioners Charlie Meintz and Chris Plutchak was the Marinette contingents refusal to seat former Twin County Commission Chair Gary Anderson as the at-large representative for Menominee County.
The meeting room had been jammed to overflowing, with people out in the hall who were unable to get in. Many of them left, including at least one other member of the Menominee County Board, when Meintz and Plutchak walked out, leaving the Commission without a quorum.
Their departure came after Atty. John Filoramo of Escanaba and others attempted unsuccessfully to convince the Commission to seat Anderson.
Filoramo said Anderson had sold his hangar and transferred the lease, and stated Menominee County Board feels that there is no conflict of interest. He quoted Commission by-laws that govern filling vacancies, spoke of a possible writ of mandamus, and read by-laws stating each county board has the right to appoint a member at large of its choosing. I dont understand what authority this board has to refuse to seat him, Filoramo concluded.
Next to speak was Menominee Township resident Wayne Meyer, who also declared the Airport Commission does not have a right to deny Anderson a seat. He said Menominee County Attorney Dan Hass ruled that since he sold the hangar, Anderson has no conflict of interest.
Anderson had been named to the post by the Menominee County Board of Commissioners at its June meeting, but the Airport Commission refused to seat him in June due to questions over possible conflict of interest due to his ownership of a hangar on space leased from Twin County Airport.
Controversy surrounded Andersons previous term on the Commission, in 2009 and 2010. When Anderson was seated the first time there had been questions of his hangar ownership, and at that time he reportedly sold the hangar and transferred his lease to the new owner.
In 2010, Anderson was defeated in his bid for reelection to Menominee County Board by Jim Pearson, who also took over his position on the Airport Commission. Those events occurred during a controversy involving former Airport Manager Tim Spreen, who later resigned. Spreen eventually was replaced by current manager Tony Krysiak, who had been manager before Spreen was hired.
At some point after he was no longer an airport commissioner, Anderson bought back his hangar and the lease was returned to his name.
At its June 17 meeting, Chair Lakari, revealed that Anderson again owned the hangar, and in accord with Commission by-laws, could not be seated until his hangar was sold and the lease amended. Minutes of that meeting state that an affidavit would need to be provided to the commission to confirm the sale along with the appropriate documentation regarding the amended lease.
The meeting had begun with a question on the minutes raised by Menominee Commissioner Meintz regarding a motion authorizing Krysiak to pursue crack repair and crack sealing projects as described to the Commission. Meintz stressed that his motion had been to authorize the airport manager to look at costs and bring the information back to the Commission, not to go ahead and get the work done.
Krysiak said cost will be $25,000 to repair and $5,000 for the sealing, and the local share will be $1,500. However, he is advertising for bids, which are due Friday. Meintz insisted the minutes should say secure bids not pursue the work.
After being assured that the bids are being advertised and will come back to the board, Meintz agreed to approve the minutes.
Next came time for public comment, during which the the two speakers from the floor challenged the commissions refusal to seat Anderson.
When no one else from the crowd wanted to speak, Lakari closed public comment and moved on to the next agenda item, Progress report and consideration to resolve question of conflict of interest for June 10, 2014 Menominee County Board appointment to TCAC, action if any.
Lakari noted the June 17 minutes state the Commission would need an affidavit concerning the sale and documentation of the lease transfer. He said since the meeting, there have been a lot of communications flying back and forth, but the Commission still does not have all the needed documentation.
I can think of no reason at all that Mr. Anderson cannot be seated, Meintz declared. He said Anderson has transferred ownership according to the tax rolls, and sold the hangar and transferred the lease to Mr. Baumann. He said documentation had been sent to Lakari by Dan Hass.
He said he tried to make a motion at the last meeting for a special Commission meeting to settle the conflict issue, but was not permitted to do so. He said he has looked at the new hangar lease and sees no problem. In the past, seating of new Commissioners had been a simple matter, Meintz said, and declared handling of what should be a simple hangar transaction is raising public concern about the handling of Twin County Airport.
Commissioner Johns had a question for Anderson, who was seated in the audience. Lakari agreed he should be allowed to answer. She asked Anderson if he did sell his hangar prior to being seated in 2009, and was told he did. He confirmed he had then bought it back after he no longer was on the Commission, and now has sold it again.
If you got on this Commission today and then got off again tomorrow, would you buy it back again? she asked. The answer was unclear.
Meintz moved to accept Anderson and seat him on the Commission. He repeated his contention that there is no conflict of interest, and cited the legal opinion to that effect.
He also repeated his contention that in the past there had been no such issues over seating a Commissioner.
Lakari said this was the first time he had been involved with this type of process. Meintz reminded him he had been involved with seating of a commissioner before.
Not to this extent, Lakari declared.
He said on June 17 the Commission did not have evidence of the sale, and an affidavit was provided on June 24. Then there was the lease transfer.
Commissioner Plutchak took up the argument in favor of seating Anderson. He contended the Commission had been suitably notified of the lease transfer and the sale, and cited lease language regarding that.
You guys have your opinion, other commissioners have other opinions, Lakari told him. To me, this document dated June 10 does not rise to the requirements of this lease...Mr. Anderson has written this letter before, he added, and mentioned games played in 2009. He acknowledged the Commission has the affidavit, but we dont believe this constitutes the appropriate letter. He mentioned an inference that the Commission is trying to block the appointment.
It kind of bothers me that were trading hangars and leases like baseball cards, Johns declared. She suggested they might need another legal opinion, and Lakari agreed they would get one.
Commissioner Sauve said he could not support seating of Anderson without proper legal authority.
Lakari asked Krysiak if he needed a letter from Anderson to confirm the new lease agreement, and was told he did.
Meintz asked if Anderson could write the letter now, and Lakari said no.
You guys are trending into a very gray area, Meintz declared. I am concerned about being on this board...You could be subject to legal action!
Meintz said he and Mr. Plutchak had asked Lakari to schedule a special meeting to discuss this, but Lakari refused.
Lakari agreed Meintz had asked for a special meeting on June 26, and my response was that we didnt have the transfer information we feel is appropriate. Now all we need is the letter....You guys have known about that all along!
Plutchak declared the transfer should be a simple form to fill in.
Johns then asked if Mr. Anderson could write something now.
Lakari indicated not, After it comes to Mr. Krysiak he will do what he needs to do...I dont feel right to ask him to do it tonight.
I dont feel its fair for Menominee County to not have full representation, responded Plutchak. I am going to have to leave this meeting. He gathered his papers and prepared to leave, drawing loud applause from the spectators. However, he then moved to approve the lease transfer and have Anderson seated on the Commission. The motion failed, with Meintz and Plutchak voting in favor and Lakari, Johns and Sauve opposed. Plutchak left.
Meintz declared in regard to the letters, he was concerned about Open Meetings Law violations, and declared, Since Menominee County does not have full representation, I have to leave too. He too left the room, and was followed by a Menominee County Commissioner and others.
Remaining members of the audience pointed out there was no longer a quorum and the meeting could not continue. Lakari declared the meeting adjourned.
Business on the agenda remained undone. In addition to the issue of seating Anderson, agenda items included discussion and possible action on a by-laws change that would allow Commissioners to participate by teleconference, distributing rules governing employee suspension and work rule policy changes approved by Commissioners on June 17, report from the Executive Committee on budget work, the 10-year capital improvement plan, and the airport managers request for compensatory time off for holidays, and financial and air traffic reports.
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