Attorney General Patrick Morrisey Says West Virginia Open Meetings Laws Apply to Potomac Highlands Airport Authority

 8/8/2014

CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey today said his Office sent an opinion letter to Mineral County Prosecuting Attorney James W. Courrier Jr. informing him that West Virginia’s Open Meetings Laws apply to the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority, the governing organization of the Greater Cumberland Regional Airport, which serves Mineral County, W.Va., and Allegany County, Md.
 
“The Office was pleased to help Mineral County in evaluating whether the open meetings laws of Maryland or West Virginia were relevant to the business conducted by the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “While the Authority operates as an interstate compact between Maryland and West Virginia, for a wide variety of reasons we believe the airport authority must follow West Virginia law when making decisions.”
 
Courrier requested the opinion to clarify whether the Authority had the ability to conduct its business under Maryland’s open meetings laws, or if the Authority should follow West Virginia’s laws regarding meetings. The Authority recently stated it believed Maryland law has governed, and should continue to govern, how their meetings are conducted. The meetings take place at the Cumberland Regional Airport, which is located in Wiley Ford, W.Va.
 
“Our Office disagrees with the Authority’s position that it should adhere to Maryland law,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “The Authority does not have the power to contravene West Virginia open-meetings laws.”
 
Only two sections of the Compact refer to a specific state law, and both reference West Virginia law. Section 8 of the Compact directs the Authority to have its financial records examined by the State Tax Commissioner of West Virginia, and Section 11 of the Compact specifies that all eligible employees of the Authority are considered to be within the Workmen’s Compensation Act of West Virginia.
 
“These provisions — together with the fact that there are no references in the Compact to Maryland state law — strongly suggest that the Authority was intended to be governed by West Virginia law,” Attorney General Morrisey said.
 
When all factors were considered, the Office determined that West Virginia has the most significant relationship with this issue. In addition, the airport’s physical location is in West Virginia, the Federal Aviation Administration has always classified the airport as a West Virginia airport, and the meetings of the Authority itself take place at the airport.
 
“For all these reasons, we conclude, based on the facts you have provided us, that West Virginia’s meetings law governs meetings of the Potomac Highlands Airport Authority,” Attorney General Morrisey wrote.
 
The Attorney General’s Office is authorized under the law to provide written opinions advising county prosecuting attorneys in matters relating to the official duties of their office. The opinions are solely based upon facts provided by the county. Attorney General Morrisey has provided 18 written opinions since taking office in 2013.
 
To read a copy of the Mineral County opinion letter, click here.

Contact Information

Beth Ryan, (304) 558-2021, beth.g.ryan@wvago.gov
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