September 10, 2008 Edition

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Airport's lawyer
reports on meeting

Gloria Wilkerson
Staff Writer

The Walnut Ridge Airport Commission held its monthly meeting Monday evening at 6 with its attorney, David Cahoon, and engineer, Stacey Morris, in attendance.

Following the meeting, Cahoon asked members of the public and media to leave, giving client-attorney privilege as the reason for their dismissal. Airport manager Ken Newcom, Walnut Ridge Mayor Michelle Rogers and Morris were allowed to remain in the meeting room.

According to Arkansas law, it is illegal to disallow the public and media access to such a meeting.

"I believed it was perfectly legal to meet with my clients in private," Cahoon said. "I was under the impression an attorney and his clients, while involved in active litigation, could have a private meeting. How do you prepare for a case without that privilege?"

He said legislators apparently see it differently. "We're all involved with the education process of learning these new laws," said Cahoon.

"I now agree with Attorney General Dustin McDaniel."

Airport Commission Chairman Jack Allison and member Milton Smith both said they were acting on the advice of their attorney when the meeting was closed. "If we received incorrect advice, I am very sorry," Smith said.

According to Cahoon, during the private meeting, airport engineer Stacey Morris went over with the commission and Mayor Rogers the basic federal regulations concerning safety standards as they relate to Runway 18. He also presented a diagram showing physical dimensions of federal safety standards that displayed physical boundaries of various federal runway safety requirements.

"Stacey talked about how he had drawn diagrams showing portions of the golf course which could be relocated on airport property," Cahoon said. "One element the golf club has often cited was a relocation would not allow them a par-five hole; however, the plan shown to us by Stacey would allow two par-five holes."

Cahoon said he was asked to set a meeting with the golf club, its attorney and officers so that they could try and work toward a solution.

Cahoon said he did not know if there would be ramifications from the private meeting with his clients on Monday night.

"The airport commission is actively pursuing a resolution to this problem," he said.

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