By: Steve Trubilla
"Everyone, Franklin County and Carlina Inc., are happy that it's finally over," said Louisburg attorney David Guin, when he shared his thoughts in early February with the media about The Triangle North Executive Airport settlement for $1.5 million.
Respectfully, I disagree with Guin, everyone is not happy. Are you happy this has cost the people of Franklin County $1.5 million?
I understand terms were agreed to settle this, and fighting it further in court would have resulted with legal fees.
I remember while sitting on the Airport Commission this was an ongoing topic of discussion. The black and white details of it were very sketchy at best. Documents could not even be located to allow for an audit trail of events.
Clearly, this placed Franklin County at a disadvantage. Part of the strategy, as I understood, was, let's just wait and see what happens. Time was felt to be on our side, with the statute of limitations running. If Franklin County did not tip its administratively weak hand, waiting would operate to defeat Carlina Inc.'s recourse.
Trying to understand the legal gymnastics of this will get you dizzy.
People were paid to negotiate the contract, and terms with this. We have a Board of County Commissioners, county manager, and others also paid to exercise supervision and oversight.
As I understand this, it has been going on since 2006. Where is the internal review and/or investigation, the document that reflects causes and finding of fact?
Here is a very simple question. Who, by name, has been held accountable? A serious question! Yes, I have read what was made public. There was not one word about accountability.
It is one scandal after another. Millions and millions of dollars, everyone keeps their job, and the same people remain in office.
For a very long time, as a matter of routine, I attended county commissioners' meetings and asked questions of county executives and elected officials. Most simply refused to answer.
I have been witness to others being berated at meetings when they asked questions.
I resolved it was simply a waste of time going to the meetings. I remain engaged, but it is difficult. By and large, I feel most people also find it a waste of time going to such meetings; very few citizens attend them.
As it relates to this scandal, and make no mistake this is exactly what it is, I commend Commissioners Harry Foy and David Bunn for voting against the settlement.
At the very least, until such time as the "why" of it was known, no settlement should have been made. They have had nine years to figure it out.
I will bet you a donut and cup of coffee if you asked most officials what happened on this, with probing questions, they will refuse to answer, they could not explain it to your satisfaction. Still they approved the $1.5 million.
In fairness to Guin, he inherited a real mess with this. I am sure he did the best he could with what he had to work with.
This is not the first scandal at the Triangle North Executive Airport, a name by the way that gives no identity to Franklin County, nor is it the second one, and it will not be the last.
There is a former airport employee that has repeatedly sounded the alarm on a number of issues. He has what appears to be very detailed and documented support for his assertions. Many of those assertions have appeared in The Franklin Times by way of letters to the editor.
One of his most profound and potential dangerous assertions is of unsafe parachutist and flight operations. He has said, and in no uncertain terms, he has been witness to this.
There are those that feel his assertions are unfounded, while others support them.
He has gone so far as to strongly state the Federal Aviation Administration, (FAA), should be invited to take a look at operations and make a determination.
I can tell you from personal knowledge there have been incidents between parachutists and pilots.
Here is your 600-pound gorilla in the room. I have read in a recent Times article by Carey Johnson that Airport Director Steve Merritt warned calling the FAA could be tantamount to calling an "artillery strike on yourself."
A member of the Airport Commission, and also a pilot, told other board members that the FAA may come in to examine the ability of jumpers and pilots to co-exist, however their scrutiny may very well go beyond that.
These statements clearly indicate things may be happening that officials here do not want the FAA to know about. Why, my stars why?
As I understand it, the Airport Commission supports the idea of all interested parties getting together to "hash things out."
Carey Johnson's article ends with, "No action was taken on this matter." You read that correctly: "No action has been taken."
Here is another 600-pound gorilla for you. What happens if in the meantime someone gets killed? One and a half million dollars may just be a drop in the bucket! Not to mention the ability we may have had to avoid the tragedy.
Now back to the legal gymnastics of it all. Remember, a former employee of the airport reported this. The response by the airport director, Airport Commission and Board of County Commissioners is a matter of public record.
Look up the definitions of criminal, willful, and gross negligence. You can bet if it happens, the lawyers will.
I know a little about calling artillery strikes on your own position. Sometimes when the enemy is in the wire, that is what it takes. I feel it is not time to hash things out; it is time to call the FAA: (704) 319-7020. What do you think?
Let's have a party -- everyone is happy?