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Airport Authority Colleagues See Conflict : Gee Won't Quit Panel or Drop Out of Suit

February 13, 1986|GREG BRAXTON | Times Staff Writer

Burbank Airport commissioner Margie Gee said last week that she has no immediate plans to withdraw her participation in a lawsuit against the airport or to resign from the Airport Authority, a move that sidesteps a request by her colleagues to choose one or the other.

In a letter addressed to individual City Council members, Gee said Friday that she wanted the council, which appointed her to the panel in May, to be patient while she waits "for extremely relevant information which . . . could cause a drastic change in current affairs."

Gee did not specify in the letter what information she was waiting for. "I won't comment on that," she said in an interview. "All I can say is that the information will come in less than three months."

Mayor Mary Lou Howard and Leland Ayers, who serve on the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority with Gee, have been pressuring her to choose between her lawsuit and her appointment.

Holding on to both, they say, constitutes a conflict of interest and prevents Gee from participating in decisions on airport noise issues that could affect the suit, which involves 200 San Fernando Valley homeowners.

"As was considered before my appointment, I might temporarily have to serve under a limitation," Gee wrote. "Nevertheless, I have been able to provide a valuable service to the City of Burbank.

"Facts that may have a great bearing on Burbank's future that were unknown to you before are now out in the public for all to see."

Gee's letter led Councilman Michael Hastings to suggest that the council may consider removing her from the panel, which it could do with a majority vote.

"If the council does appoint someone else, Margie can be their 'inside' person, since she does know so much about the airport," he said. "But it's up to the council to decide how long they can and should wait before they take some sort of action. I want to have some sort of timetable. We need more information.

"The problem is that Margie can only discuss noise issues at the commission, but she is also handicapped with talking to the council about those issues. It really handicaps her effectiveness."

When informed of Hastings' reaction, Gee warned: "If the council acts hastily, they'll be sorry. That's exactly what my letter was trying to prevent. They should not act hastily. It's not appropriate at this time. I wish I could say more. I don't like being quiet about what's going on."

Gee's letter said: "Regardless of my current limitations (this could change dramatically) the fact remains that Burbank has benefited a great deal by my participation as a commissioner at the airport. I feel the last six months' activities have more than proven this."

The lawsuit in which Gee is a participant was filed two years ago by homeowners seeking damages for lowered property values and nuisance caused by airplane noise. Each litigant is seeking $200,000 in damages.

Because of a possible conflict of interest, Gee abstained from voting earlier this month on an application to allow United Airlines to begin service at Burbank Airport. Burbank opposes the added service because of the additional airplane noise, which might disrupt surrounding neighborhoods.

In the letter, Gee downplayed her participation in the suit, noting that Howard was still involved in legal action against the city's Redevelopment Agency stemming from a lawsuit her husband filed several years ago concerning property he owned.

Gee said more priority should be given to determine what is best for Burbank and what role the city wants to take in shaping the airport's future.

Her handicap is counteracted by the votes of the other two commissioners, she said.

"My current inability to take part in a vote of possible significance could possibly be used to advantage by providing an indication that an issue of importance to Burbank is at hand," she wrote. "If this is so, then Burbank needs to be able to feel confident in the loyalty to Burbank of the other two votes."

Gee said Tuesday that she hoped to meet with the council in closed session next week to give them information important to her position. She was to meet with the city attorney to determine whether a closed session could be held.

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