Franklin BOC Removes Airport Authority Appointees Addison and Flowers Amid GBI Investigation into Conflict of Interest Allegations

Franklin County Commissioners have replaced two members of the Franklin/Hart Airport Authority amid allegations that the president of the authority, Eddie Addison, had a conflict of interest because he has a lease-hold on a hanger at the airport.

At their regular meeting Monday evening the Board voted to remove Eddie Addison and Bill Flowers, the two Franklin County appointees and replace them with Jonathon Roland and Martha Long, but not before some heated discussion between Commissioners and Commission Chair Thomas Bridges.

Both Roland and Long have experience with airports and flying, according to Bridges, but do not have hangers at the airport.

Before the appointments, Bridges called for a motion to recommend one of three applicants, but Commissioner Jason Macomson recused himself saying he has treated the pets of all three applicants at Lavonia Animal Hospital where he is on staff and said that could be viewed as a conflict of interest.

Bridges then called for a recommendation to replace Addison and Flowers, but there were no takers. After long silences from Commissioners after each motion call, Bridges opened the floor for discussion.

Commissioner Ryan Swails said he believed the GBI had better things to do with their time, such as catching drug dealers, than to investigate an airport authority member.

“This whole thing has been really weird,” he said.

Bridges said he received a letter from District Attorney Parks White last Friday telling him the County had been ordered to remove Addison last month and because they failed to do so were in violation of the law.

“It is very clear that our attorney, the GBI and the DA that there’s a conflict of interest against the legislation in which we let him (Addison) serve,” Bridges said. “The DA notified me on Friday that the GBI investigation is over and told all of us we need to remove that person (Addison) because it’s a conflict of interest. I’m going to let the DA tell what the findings is, becuase I don’t know what the findings is.”

WLHR News contacted GBI Agent in Charge Jesse Maddox Tuesday and asked for a copy of their investigation findings and was told by Maddox that the investigation is not over and any findings they will have once they’re done investigating will be turned over to the DA.

Commissioner Jasom Macomson called the Addison situation very confusing citing different opinions from the District Attorney.

Macomson said when he spoke to White last month, he was assured that the County would not be held liable for waiting until the GBI investigation is over before make a decision on new appointments.

Commissioner Eddie Wester blasted Bridges Monday for playing politics and engineering what he said was a politically motivated agenda to remove Addison.

“My point is one person has been singled out in this whole thing. if you want to talk about a conflict of interest there’s more than one. You want to look at the deal with the hangar swap? The Airport Authority voted on that. But we’re singling out one person in this investigation and nothing seems right about that. It seems like there’s some personal and political issues being pushed here and there’s nothing to make me think otherwise. From what I’ve looked at and from what I’ve been told, there’s nothing that can make me change my mind on that,” Wester said.

And before the vote, Commissioner Macomson said based on the letter from the DA,  the Board had no choice but to remove Addison and appoint someone else.

“I shared Mr. Wester’s concerns. I think we all have questions about how this conflict of interest clause and the airport authority legislation collides. But I also feel like we’ve reached the point where to not take action implicates us and draws us into a major legal conflict. I want to avoid that. I move that we appoint Jonathon Roland to replace Eddie Addison who’s term expired June 1st,” he said.

The Board approved the appointment of Jon Roland by a vote of 3-2 with Macomson, Bridges, and Franklin voting for and Commissioners Swails and Wester voting against.

Citing the need for a fresh start a motion was made to remove Bill Flowers and replace him with Martha Long.

Commissioners then voted 4-1 to remove Flowers with Bridges voting against.