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Investigation Into Missing Airport Minutes

A concern for the best interest of the county - and the worry that taxpayer money is being spent at random - is what Rutherford County Commissioner Bo Richard said Wednesday led him to search for Airport Authority meeting notes from the 1980s.

"You don't go looking for something unless you have a reason to go looking for it," said Airport Authority Director Bob Howard.

A controversial June deal had Richard and Commissioner Bill Eckler searching through airport file cabinets.

"They could have just picked up the phone and said 'We're headed your way' and that would have been fine with me," said Howard. "I mean we have nothing to hide."

The Airport Authority - with the help of FAA grants - paid Commission Chair Julius Owens $300,000 - for a property appraised at approximately $170,000.

The airport needed the property to come into federal regulations; an oak tree on Owens' property is in violation of runway flight path regulations.
Richard wanted the notes to "get educated" about past deals made with Owens - or anyone else, Richard said - regarding tree trimming.
Richard says he has reason to believe there were items in the missing minutes pertaining to at least one deal involving tree trimming.

But in his search last Thursday, Richard discovered the minutes were missing.
Howard filed a police report Tuesday.

"Conspiracy,?" said Howard, "The airport is here for the public."

For the last six days - suspicion and rumors have swirled around the county about where the minutes are and whether they ever existed.

"Since this all happened I've been thrown under the bus so many times I don't even try to get the track marks off my back," said Howard.

Wednesday morning Howard says he found them in cassette form, some in a box in the airport office basement and others in a desk drawer next to the file cabinets where the minutes are kept.
The minutes were kept via cassette, Howard says, to accomodate for an arthritic secretary.

But Howard says there are likely still missing tapes. Deputies were at the airport investigating Wednesday afternoon.
The county still owes Owens $30,000 and Richard says he wants to hear them.


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