DOJ: News Release

McGrath: Removal of Airport Commissioners Must Be ‘For Cause’

HELENA – In an opinion released Thursday, Attorney General Mike McGrath ruled that as long as an airport authority commissioner is exercising powers permitted by law, he or she is not subject to removal from the commission. Only misconduct or neglect of duty would warrant such a removal, McGrath said.

Ravalli County Attorney George Corn requested the opinion.

The opinion cited Montana case law that says appointed officials may be removed only “for cause,” and generally, “for cause” implies misconduct, neglect of duty or inefficiency. Also, to ensure that such a removal is not arbitrary, removal may occur only after notice and an opportunity for the commissioner in question to be heard.

As long as a commissioner acted lawfully, then, a disagreement between an airport commissioner and a municipality would not constitute “cause.”

McGrath’s opinion also addressed the different ways in which a local government may run an airport, including operating the airport itself, creating an advisory board or creating an airport authority. If a local government sought to retain authority over an airport, it might choose a different approach than an airport authority. Once the local government creates an airport authority, however, it relinquishes any statutory power over the operation of the airport.

An attorney general’s opinion carries the weight of law unless a court overturns it or it is modified by legislative action.

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