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Airport Authority Board Member to resign over vague state law

Hank Bonecutter

Hank Bonecutter

Montgomery County, TN – Local architect, and Regional Airport Authority board member Jerry Clark, submitted his resignation at today’s Airport Authority board meeting. Clark was identified by County Mayor Carolyn Bowers as to have a potential conflict of interest with the county under the County Purchasing Act of 1957. Clark is a county appointee to the authority.  Clarksville Online and Wjzm radio were the first to report the story.

In his resignation letter, Clark says, “Regrettably, I resign my position as Vice-Chairman and submit my resignation to the board of the Clarksville Montgomery County Regional Airport Authority, effective close of business, October 31st, 2011.”

Clarks goes on to say, “I do so to avoid any potential conflict of interest that I might have going forward doing business with either the county or city. It is my belief, after exhaustive legal research, that a reasonable interpretation of the laws would make this resignation unnecessary, but I cannot afford the possibility that my belief is incorrect.”

With his resignation, Clark presented county officials numerous legal opinions, obtained at his own personal expense, that indicate that Clark could continue to do business with the county, but could not do business with the Airport Authority.  Clark does not do business with the airport, has never done business with the airport, and is ethically bound not to pursue any contracts with the airport.

“The law is vague, and it could affect a lot of good people who give their time and talents to their community” said Clark. “I’ve resigned until county government gets a ruling from the Attorney General that satisfies their concerns.”

“It’s in my best interests, and the interests of my company not to cause the county any problems with the law”, Clark stated.  “If this law turns out to apply to this situation, in the opinion of Montgomery County Government, I will work diligently to change the law, because it’s a bad law.”

County Attorney Austin Peay said last week that state auditors cited two Tennessee statutes, TCA 5-14-114 and TCA 12-4-101 as authority for prohibiting Clark, while a board member of the Airport Authority, from contracting with other city or county agents.  Peay indicated at the time that he was preparing a letter to send to four other individuals who serve in some capacity with the county, that may have a conflict of interest.

Peay said Monday that those letters were not sent out as indicated, but would not identify those individuals that may have a conflict. Peay said he was acting on Mayor Bower’s instruction not to send the letters, and not to identify the other individuals who may have a conflict of interest.

Clark has been the only individual confronted about the law. In a meeting with Mayor Bowers and Mayor Kim McMillan on October 10th, Clark was given a choice to continue to serve on the board, or do business with the county, but he could not do both. There has been no wrongdoing in this matter, and both sides are seeking clarification of the law and how it applies to them. An Attorney General’s opinion is being sought.

The law in question could have far reaching impacts on both the city of Clarksville, and Montgomery County. Local business people who have done business legally with local governments, while serving in some capacity, would be prohibited from doing so in the future.

We will have further updates on this story, and we encourage you to listen to 1400am Wjzm, news talk radio, for updates.

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