July 30, 2008

Cramer, Board Clash Over Sunshine Statement

By S. Brady Calhoun, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.

Jul. 30--PANAMA CITY -- Bill Cramer, vice chairman of the Airport Authority, doesn't mind being redundant.

On Tuesday, Cramer called on the board to accept an approval process for Phoenix Construction that reiterated the chain of command and Florida's Sunshine Law.

The document "assures the public we're going to do business that way," Cramer said, adding that "no ex-parte agreement can bind the board."

While they voted with him, other board members said the language was redundant and unnecessary.

"I don't think we've done business any other way" than legally, board member Gerry Clemons said.

Cramer and James Finch, owner of Phoenix, got into a heated argument earlier this month when Finch pressured the board to move forward with a decision on the runway for the new $330 million airport in West Bay. Cramer wanted to wait for further information, but Finch threatened to file a claim against the board, saying certain people had urged him to work ahead of schedule.

Cramer said Tuesday he was concerned because something that allegedly happened outside of Florida's Sunshine Law could be the basis of a claim against the board.

Florida's Sunshine Law prevents government bodies from doing business outside of public meetings.


Also Tuesday, the authority unanimously approved a 3.35-percent raise for Airport Director Randy Curtis, increasing his pay to $109,332.

The board also provides Curtis with a 2002 Ford Taurus and $2,936 for insurance coverage for his spouse. The Taurus is owned by the airport, and the agency covers gas and maintenance costs, airport officials said. Curtis is allowed to drive it to and from work and on airport business, airport officials said.

The executive director of the Fort Walton Beach airport makes $101,802 with no automobile, according to documents provided by the Panama City-Bay County International Airport. The Pensacola director gets $123,500 and a vehicle, while the director in Tallahassee gets $121,617 and a $668 monthly auto allowance, local airport officials said.


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Copyright (c) 2008, The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.

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