MENOMINEE — The scales of justice ruled on the side of Menominee County Friday, by placing its third representative on the Twin County Airport Commission, but they also tipped heavily in that direction after the resignation of two representatives from Marinette County.
Circuit Court Judge Richard Celello agreed with Menominee County’s request to compel the airport commission to accept Garry Anderson as a new appointee and to accept the lease agreement Anderson forged with Gene Coleman, who will take over ownership of Anderson’s hangar at the airport.
Celello asked Menominee County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Hass to prepare the writ of mandamus, which Hass said after the show cause hearing he would draft as soon as possible.
While Celello’s words said the airport commission has to accept Anderson, it was Hass’ opinion that Anderson will become a member of the commission immediately after Celello signs the document and that no commission action is needed.
That becomes significant because of the decision Tuesday afternoon by Nick Lakari and Mary Johns to resign from the airport commission immediately, which leaves Marinette County with only one representative, Ted Sauve. Both Sauve and Lakari are county board supervisors; Johns was appointed as a county at-large representative.
The commission met in special session Tuesday at noon to consider hiring an attorney to represent the group at that afternoon’s court hearing, but the meeting was adjourned without any discussion or action after it was clear there was no quorum. Neither Charlie Meintz nor Chris Plutchak, both Menominee County commissioners and airport commissioners, appeared at the special meeting. Meintz had emailed that he was not available — Plutchak did not show up. Both Meintz and Plutchak were at the show cause hearing at the Menominee County Courthouse at 2 p.m.
Meintz and Plutchak also walked out of the last airport commission meeting after a vote to accept Anderson was rejected 3-2.
Hass said the two commissioners left the meeting because they didn’t have equal representation. He reiterated that point Friday in court.
“This is not an issue of Menominee versus Marinette; this is not about whether Mr. Garry Anderson is qualified or not qualified to sit as Menominee County appointee to the airport commission, this boils down to Democracy 101. It’s Menominee’s County’s right to have equal and fair representation on the airport commission,” Hass said.
“All the residents of Menominee County are not receiving fair and adequate representation, because now, at this point, there are only two recognized members … It’s a board of six and we need to have Menominee County’s appointee recognized.”
All three Marinette County members of the airport commission were present without legal representation, which meant that unless one or more of them testified, they were not allowed to bring their argument against the writ before the court. None of the three testified.
While it was not discussed in court why there was no representation, both Johns and Lakari stated earlier that they resigned largely because Marinette County government, and its corporation counsel, failed to provide legal counsel or even advice in the airport matter.
“Because, the commission is a public corporation — corporations cannot act through lay people,” Celello said. “They have to act through an attorney.”
Celello said he could see no reason why a writ of mandamus should not be issued. Hass was directed to prepare the document within 14 days that would order the acceptance of the transfer of the lease and the appointment of Anderson.
The hearing took less than eight minutes and the special airport meeting was less than a minute.