A proposed update of Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority bylaws at this week’s meeting provided a lively discussion on the authority’s changing role, its relationship with county government and the importance of members’ participation.
The conversation centered on rules in organization's proposed bylaws allowing the authority to remove one of its members for lack of attendance. The provision was designed to assure an active board, Chairman James Loncella said.
“The overall goal is to retain good people,” Loncella said.
Ironically, the discussion came minutes after Loncella announced he was stepping down as chairman and resigning from the airport authority.
“I am not going to make any comments or answer any questions about my reasons, so don’t ask,” Loncella said.
He did not provide any more information after the meeting, but said, “I will say this much, I am never going to do anything this public again.”
The dialogue began when Solicitor Timothy Leventry’s described the process to remove a board member.
Leventry said the proposed bylaws called for removal after an member misses three meetings without an excuse. The authority can vote to allow the member to remain.
“What is an unexcused absence?” Lengenfelder asked.
Leventry admitted the term has never been defined in the bylaws.
“If it’s undefined, it can't be enforced,” said Douglas Lengenfelder, a Cambria County Commissioner and airport authority member. “There is going to have to be more than this.”
The proposed bylaw changes are still open for discussion, authority Vice Chairman William Polacek said, urging Lengenfelder to review all the changes.
“At the last (March) meeting, we said, let’s look at these and let us know what you think,” Polacek said. “If there are any changes we can make them. We can vote next meeting.”
Lengenfelder missed the March meeting because he was at a conference as part of the county’s effort to create a zone centered at the airport to help promote business development by foreign investors.
He was absent in February because he was in Argentina with a local delegation making contacts for the venture.
“If I miss more, are they going to kick me out?” Lengenfelder asked.
Polacek said he recognized that the absences were related to airport business.
The provision is designed to help the authority board remain dynamic and engaged, Loncella said, suggesting that the bylaw language could be changed to say that missing three meetings would trigger a review by the board for possible removal vote.
All members of the airport authority are appointed by the county commissioners.
To assure some stability terms are staggered so that a portion of the board is up for appointment every year.
Lengenfelder asked how the provision to remove authority members would affect the commissioners’ role in appointing them.
“If this becomes a political issue, with wholesale removal of authority members ...” Lengenfelder said, not finishing the sentence.
“There is more than meets the eye when it comes to putting people in and taking people off boards.”
Lengenfelder said he will take the proposed bylaws for review by the county solicitor.
“This authority is an autonomous board,” Leventry said. “Because the commissioners are the appointing agency, they have the ability to comment on them and make suggestions.”
After the meeting, Lengenfelder said the discussion illustrates the commissioners’ commitment to using all of the county’s assets to explore economic development and job creation.
“You didn’t hear a fight in there,” he said.
“You heard a discussion of philosophies – and it's good.”
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