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"Judge to consider suit against airport authority"



Thursday, September 22, 2005

Judge to consider suit against airport authority
By David Atchison 
The Talladega (AL) Daily Home


PELL CITY - St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Charles Robinson said he
would take under advisement a case in which an airport hangar tenant filed a
lawsuit against the St. Clair County Airport Authority.

"I will take the case under advisement and will let both parties know of my
decision by next Wednesday," Robinson said Wednesday.

William and Lynn Glenn of Talladega filed a lawsuit against the authority
asking the court to allow them to remain in their hangar.

The authority filed a counterclaim asking the court to order the Glenns to
vacate the property.

The Glenns allege the authority engaged in economic discrimination when it
evicted them and seven other tenants.

Glenn testified he refused to buy fuel at the airport because the authority
would not rent him another hangar. He said he was rebuilding a plane and
wanted another hangar to store another operable plane he owns.

Glenn testified he was told he could not have the additional hangar if he
did not buy fuel.

"I chose to buy my fuel elsewhere," Glenn testified. "It was my personal
show of dissatisfaction with the board (authority)."

Lyle Harmon, an attorney for the plaintiffs, implied the authority wanted
the Glenns' hangar so it could move in a company with a corporate plane,
which would buy more fuel from the airport.

The St. Clair County Airport is funded through money it receives from hangar
rental, fuel sales and ad valorem taxes the county collects on airplanes,
and state and federal grant money.

Kim Streety, manager of the St. Clair County Airport, said the airport gets
about $1 per gallon of fuel purchase at the airport.

Glenn also testified his relationship with the authority was "strained" for
some time and that today, the relationship is "non-existent."

He said his relationship with the authority soured when he went to the
Federal Aviation Administration because the board would not adhere to safety
rules.

He said skydivers were landing on the runway, causing a potentially deadly
safety hazard.

Glenn said he tried to resolve the issue at the local level without getting
the FAA involved.

He said as a member of the FAA Safety Council he helped organize a meeting
with skydivers and pilots. He said the meeting led to the establishment of a
drop zone for skydivers.

Glenn testified that none of the board members attended the meeting.

He also testified that board members believed his wife filed a complaint
against the authority with the Alabama Department of Environmental
Management when an airport employee used jet fuel to burn a trash pile.

He said neither he nor his wife filed the complaint with ADEM.

"(Authority member) Joe Suttle told me I must control my wife, and that she
was a troublemaker and loud mouth," Glenn testified.

Harmon said because the Glenns rocked the boat, the authority wanted them
out of the hangar.

"They booted them out because they (authority members) don't like them,"
Harmon said, adding that the St. Clair County Airport is a public facility.
"They don't like them, so they want to kick them out."

Both Suttle and Streety testified they could not recall a hangar tenant ever
being evicted when rent was paid regularly and on time.

Harmon also said the authority decided to evict the Glenns and seven other
tenants at a secret meeting held July 19 at the office of Erskine
Funderburg, the authority's attorney.

He said the authority never gave public notice of the meeting and for the
first time in five years, it met somewhere other than the airport. 

Because of the illegal meeting, Harmon said actions taken by the authority
should be null and void.

Suttle denied on the stand that the authority broke Alabama's open meetings
law.

"It was not a secret meeting," Suttle testified. "It was a work session."

Suttle testified he did not attend the meeting held at Funderburg's office.

He also denied the authority discriminated against the Glenns.

"I don't think we discriminated," Suttle testified.

It was after that meeting at Funderburg's office that Streety sent out
eviction notices to tenants.

Funderburg said the notices were sent and tenants were given the opportunity
to address the authority about its decision.

He also pointed out that the rental agreement between the authority and
tenants is a "month by month" agreement, which can be terminated by either
party at anytime.

>From the bench, Robinson agreed.

"Clearly, either side can terminate this agreement," Robinson said.

The judge also questioned whether economic discrimination applied to this
case.

Glenn also testified Wednesday he was accused of living in the airplane
hangar. He denied that and said he and his wife have a lakefront home in
Talladega County.


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