A subcommittee for the Augusta Aviation Commission snuck in one of the airport director candidates for a second interview during a meeting Friday.
But after two hours in closed session, the group left without a final recommendation, citing a need for more time to discuss their choices.
Ken Kraemer, the manager of the Dubuque Regional Airport in Iowa, met again with the subcommittee. Mr. Kraemer's interview was not mentioned on the meeting's agenda.
The four candidates being examined by the aviation commissioners, including Mr. Kraemer, were initially interviewed by the subcommittee nearly three weeks ago.
"(Mr. Kraemer) is the first one that's been called back a second time," said Bernie Silverstein, the subcommittee's chairman.
Mr. Kraemer's interview Friday was held during closed session - a move that one media attorney said might have violated Georgia's open meeting's laws.
"It is my opinion that when a quorum (or voting majority) of the committee or the entire board interviews a candidate, it must be in an open meeting," said David Hudson, an attorney for the Georgia Press Association and The Augusta Chronicle.
Mr. Hudson cited a section of the Georgia code that allows a meeting to be closed if it is to discuss hiring issues. Interviews, he said, go beyond discussion and are not included in the exemption.
"Individual members could interview privately, but not a quorum," he said.
City Attorney Jim Wall interpreted the law differently.
"The statute specifically allows you to close the meeting for the interview process," he said. "To the extent of saying that we cannot interview in a closed session, I disagree."
According to state law, meetings can be closed when "discussing or deliberating upon the appointment, employment, compensation, hiring, disciplinary action or dismissal, or periodic evaluation or rating of a public officer or employee but not when receiving evidence or hearing argument on charges filed to determine disciplinary action or dismissal of a public officer or employee."
The six subcommittee members and three observing aviation commissioners - the full aviation board consists of 12 members - did not take a vote during the meeting.
Willful violation of the law is punishable by a fine of as much as $500.
Mr. Silverstein said he was surprised when asked about the legality of closing Friday's meeting.
"I hope I didn't violate the law - I didn't mean to," he said. "I've been careful about everything."
Although the meeting did not garner a candidate recommendation for the full board to vote on, Mr. Silverstein said the process has not stalled. More subcommittee discussion and possibly more interviews with the other candidates might be necessary, he said.
"It's very normal to have a second visit - then we really start comparing," he said. "We're not trying to make an easy decision; we want the right person as an airport director."
Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (706) 823-3227.
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