Secret meeting in Paulding County generates airport questions, citizens locked out

On Tuesday evening, the Paulding County, Georgia, Board of Commissioners (BOC) held a public meeting headed by Chairman David Carmichael concerning county business.

While the BOC meeting was underway, some of the attendees began receiving word of a pro-commercialization of the county’s airport rally at the Housing Authority in Dallas, Ga., located in Paulding County.

As some of the attendees left to see what the “rally” was about, it turns out that it was actually a secret meeting of candidates running for Post Commissioner seats, which included Dan Boles, Chuck Hart, Randy Pullen, some private citizens, as well as some former elected officials such as former Board of Commissioners Chairman David Austin.

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Two sitting Board of Commissioners, who are up for re-election, were the first to arrive and as they walked up to the Housing Authority building, Lou Carmichael, the wife of sitting BOC Chairman David Carmichael, locked the door, preventing them from entering.

As other citizens arrived, AllOnGeorgia reporter Matt Lowe, attempted to attend the meeting and was subsequently told he could not.

Lowe said, “From my view through the windows the room appeared to be packed. I made my way to the door with my phone in hand ready to take notes. When I reached for the door and tried to swing it open it didn’t move. Thinking it must be stuck I tried a bit harder but it was locked. I thought that was a bit strange for a function with so many candidates but maybe they had some security concerns.”

“I did not have to wait long for someone to appear. It was Lou Carmichael, the wife of David Carmichael, the Board of Commissioners Chairman. She was accompanied by Herb Haynes. Mrs. Carmichael asked me who I was (through the glass door) and I gave her my name and told her I was with AllOnGeorgia. She repeated the information to Mr. Haynes who waved me off,“ Lowe said.

During this time, one of the candidates, Dan Boles, while he was inside the building, activated his vehicle alarm for some unknown reason. At the same time, a nearby homeowner was not happy as some of those who attended the secret meeting parked their vehicles on the grass on her property.

vehicle commissioners secret meeting
Vehicles at secret meeting. Source: Christopher Collins

Paulding County Commissioner candidates have entered this election year with a heated debate concerning the issue of airport commercialization, which has been an ongoing issue for a few years now.

“It seems they didn’t want their side of the airport story to be seen or heard. So there I stood, waiting, hoping someone would have a moment of clarity and open the door, “Lowe said. “With so much secrecy regarding a rally, I began to wonder what it was about? What were they talking about in there? I decided to wait and speak to the candidates as they came outside to leave.”

While the dozen of peaceful citizens stood outside away from the building, someone called the Dallas police. A short time later, an officer with the Dallas Police Department showed up and spoke to Lowe.

“After he went inside the building he came out and asked me if I would mind waiting on the curb because my presence so close to the door was causing concern for the folks inside, “Lowe said. “He explained that I was not breaking any laws and that I could continue to stand at the door if I chose to. Since my purpose in coming was to try and tell a story not make anyone uncomfortable I moved to the curb and waited for the candidates.”

Another citizen who attended outside and posted on Facebook said, “So, as I have been saying………..this group of people is known for back room, made in the dark, deals. Is this what we want for Paulding County? More locked doors, keeping everyone out but their chosen group?”

“Who sponsored this event? How did the invitations go out? What are they afraid of? Candidates meeting behind locked doors with previous elected officials, which have been known to cost taxpayers millions of dollars, planning Paulding’s future taxpayer-funded debacles?”

Many citizens were outraged when they learned then Commission Chairman David Austin planned to expand the tiny airport and bring in commercial airline service. It was an announcement that spawned nine lawsuits and is still unsettled.

CEO Brett Smith of Propeller Investments – whose 2012 attempt to commercialize Briscoe Field in Gwinnett County, GA failed due to public outcry and opposition – made a “very quiet” deal with the Paulding County Airport Authority (Calvin Thompson, Boyd L. Austin, David A. Austin, Blake Swafford, Doris Devey, Carolyn Wright, Alan Shipp, James C. Underwood, Kerry Tidmore, Ellis Aston and their attorney, Tom Cable) behind closed doors to commercialize the Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport – a county owned, taxpayer supported general aviation airport – in November 2012, which was then kept secret from the public for nearly a year.

Paulding voters in recent years have elected several commissioners who oppose the commercialization of the airport, swinging the county commission from majority pro-commercialization to majority anti-commercialization. Today on the five-person commission, four county commissioners are against commercialization, while the county chairman David Carmichael is in favor of it.

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