Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Commissioners vote to keep airport security plans secret; Commissioner Hiller says she has right to them. Immokalee Regional Airport (KIMM), Immokalee, Florida.

The Immokalee airport's security plans will remain a secret.

Collier County Commissioners voted 3-2 Tuesday to keep themselves in the dark about the security at the airport.

"There is no reason for any commissioner to have access to the plan," Commission Chairman Fred Coyle said. "It's common sense. This is not something of a contest between a commissioner and the airport director.

"Releasing the plans is not a good thing to do."

Commissioners Tom Henning and Georgia Hiller dissented.

"I have serious concerns. It is our liability. It is our responsibility as the airport board," Hiller said.

Hiller had contacted Airport Executive Director Chris Curry for the last two weeks asking for a copy of the security plans at the Immokalee Regional Airport, he said. Curry denied her request and asked the commissioners for direction at Tuesday's meeting.

Florida law requires that general aviation airports open to the public, and which have at least one runway greater than 4,999 feet long, have an approved current airport security plan on file with the Florida Department of Transportation.

The Immokalee airport's plans are restricted to the airport manager, the Department of Homeland Security, the Collier County Sheriff's Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and FDOT, Curry said.

Some airport employees also see limited plans, Curry said.

But Hiller said she contacted the Sheriff's Office and they had not received a copy of the plans. Curry said he mailed a copy and would follow up to ensure it was received.

Henning said he believes Hiller has a right to look at the plans because under Florida Statutes only security plans for international airports are exempt from public records laws. The Immokalee airport is not an international airport.

Curry said he was told by FDOT that the public records exemption applies to all airports, not just international airports.

Henning said he was concerned there was no legal interpretation from the county attorney's office on the matter before it came before the board.

Before the vote, Klatzkow said the commissioners were facing two issues — whether the security plans were public record and whether the commissioners would like the ability to view the security plans. The commissioners do not have a policy that prohibits them from asking the Airport Authority executive director to see the plans, he said.

"It is not easy on this one," he said. "If I am being conservative ... all security documents should be protected."

Klatzkow told commissioners if they wanted to access the plans, they could develop a policy to do so. Commissioner Jim Coletta said the board does not need to see the plans for the security of the airport.

"Either you trust the airport director or you don't," he said. "We don't need to know about the security of places we do not belong and this is one of them."

Hiller said the commissioners have the ultimate authority over the airport and should be allowed to see the plans.

"I support the need for confidentiality," she said. "To deny the responsibility of the board as the airport board and the board that is the lease holder from the ability to see the plans is a violation of the public records law. We are the lease holders for that property."

Hiller said she would like a written response with the particulars of the law Curry is relying on.

"Bottom line, I don't believe the exemption includes members of the board," she said, adding that she believed the three commissioners voting to keep the plans secret from themselves were circumventing the law.

"If I am going to be denied, I want the statute that was relied upon and the reason why."

Commissioner Donna Fiala asked Hiller why she was so intent on seeing the plans. Hiller said she had repeated concerns about security at the airport and wanted to see for herself what was being implemented by staff.


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