By Barney Blakeney
The South Carolina National Action Network is among those locally protesting the recent Charleston Aviation Authority Board’s appointment of Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey as the authority’s executive director. Summey, first elected to county council in 2008 is son of North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and followed his father onto the council. Elliott Summey will take the helm at the airport authority that comes with a $290,000 annual salary amidst tremendous controversy.
“This is not ‘Summeyville’, said James Johnson, S.C. NAN president. “The Summeys are attempting to take control of everything in the county. It’s a slap in the face to those Blacks who supported Keith Summey’s November re-election as mayor. I’m sure he (Keith Summey) influenced the appointment.” Johnson echoed others’ sentiments that the Summey administration smacks of cronyism in a power grab that filters through multiple layers of local and state government. Asked how that power grab might be halted, Johnson said, “If I could answer that, I’d be a genie.”
Charleston Sen. Marlon Kimpson said he’s not so much concerned about the result of the board’s appointment as its lack of transparency through due process. He thinks the board’s action sets an undesirable precedent. But unlike Johnson, Kimpson said the question of halting similar actions has an obvious answer – elect legislative representation that has the greater public interest at heart. Kimpson explained that the Charleston County Legislative Delegation appoints the majority of aviation authority board members. Their appointees make decisions about the authority’s direction.
However one anonymous source says challenging the aviation authority board’s decisions at this point is tantamount to closing the barn door after the horse got out. She said while the board should have made a national search for a new director, it’s under no requirement to do so. The board set the precedent for abandoning a national search when in 2013 it hired state Sen. Paul Campbell as executive director.
“Campbell was a sitting senator when he was hired without any experience. We allowed the precedent to take place. With Summey’s appointment, the board simply is demonstrating that history,” she said.