Suit Demands DeKalb (Georgia) Airport Turn Over Noise Information

JUNE 2, 2005

DeKalb County is illegally withholding documents detailing the expansion of DeKalb-Peachtree Airport and operating a "pork fest" that shields the wealthy from paying taxes on aircraft, a plaintiff's attorney alleged in court today.

A DeKalb Superior Court judge heard arguments for summary judgment from both sides of a lawsuit accusing DeKalb County of violating the Georgia Open Records Act by withholding information about the planes that use its airstrip.

The plaintiff, Charles "Mickey" Feltus, who lives near the airport, claims DeKalb officials refuse to release records of oversized planes on the airstrip and have evaded federal environmental law requiring noise, air and ground pollution studies around the airfield.

"The people have lost faith in their government," Feltus' lawyer Brandon Hornsby said. "In today's modern democracy, open government is probably one of the most fundamental rights. This case, at its core, is about accountability."

The defense countered DeKalb County is at the mercy of its confidentiality agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration that forbids the release of much of the information, including aircraft noise levels, flight tracks, and identification numbers.

"Essentially, there is a tug-of-war going on here," DeKalb's attorney, Vivica Brown, said. "There are the plaintiffs on one side, federal aviation on the other side, with DeKalb County as the rope."

The case, filed in 2004, has brought to the surface more than two decades of battles waged by residents over the county's tight control of operations at its north DeKalb airfield. Neighborhood activists have established fundraising organizations to pay Feltus' attorneys.

Judge Robert Castellani has divided the case into two parts, the first will determine whether DeKalb violated open records law. If needed, the next stage of litigation would address whether the violation was intentional. Castellani set a June 13 deadline for DeKalb County to file additional motions.

Source: Corey Dade, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

See also:

Role of FAA Debated in Hearing on Airport Records Disclosure (June 9, 2005)

PDK Watch for more information on the case and for briefs.