Secret last minute airport land transfer halted in Paulding County

Paulding County Commissioners Vernon Collett and Todd Pownall say they weren’t surprised when they found out the outgoing commission chairman tried to deed away 163 acres of county land to the local airport authority, but they weren't happy.

“Upset, frustrated, and angry about the situation,” says Pownall.

Those are pretty typical emotions when it comes to ongoing dispute over the Paulding County Airport.

For over 5 years the plans for the future of this pristine airport has torn the county apart.

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.

Why are they so upset? On his last day in office, then Commission chairman David Austin signed a quit claim deed, transferring 163 acres of county land at the airport to the Paulding County airport Authority.

Collett and Pownall say the commission knew nothing about it and never voted to approve any such transfer.

The Commissioners say David Austin came to the law firm of Talley, Richardson, and Cable to sign the deed. Why there? That is the law firm that represents both the county and the airport authority.

When Pownall and Collett found out that the firm's two airport authority lawyers oversaw the signing of the deed, they quickly stepped in, made sure the deed was never filed in court, and stopped the transfer of land.

“Mr. Austin will argue he has power as chairman to do anything he wants,” said Pownall, “that's not the case.”

In executive session Wednesday, the commission voted to terminate the contract of its long standing law firm. It is a powerful, local firm that includes former speaker of the House Glen Richardson and has handled Paulding County business for some 30 years.

“Your law firm that represents the county goes and does something like this, there is a problem. I can't trust that no more,” said Pownall.

David Austin did not return our phone call or texts. We didn’t hear back from anyone at the Talley, Richardson, and Cable law firm.