The Burbank City Council voted to retain controversial Burbank Airport Commissioner Margie Gee, even though she faces a possible conflict of interest stemming from her role in a lawsuit against the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority.
The majority of the council members affirmed Tuesday that Gee's expertise on airport matters and her ability to represent Burbank citizens affected by airplane noise justified keeping her on the panel.
The 4-1 vote marked a reversal of recent council sentiment. Council members, including another Burbank representative on the authority, Mary Lou Howard, had expressed doubts about Gee's ability to effectively serve on the board because airport authority lawyers had said she could not vote on issues that might affect her lawsuit.
'She Is Dedicated'
"Mrs. Gee serves a useful purpose; she is dedicated, and I think we should show her nothing but support," Councilman Al F. Dossin said. "I would be ashamed to do otherwise."
However, Councilman Robert R. Bowne called the council's decision "nonsense and scandalous." He said Gee polarized the airport authority and does not serve as an effective voice for the city because of her inability to discuss noise issues.
The airport authority consists of three representatives from each community.
Earlier this month, the state Fair Political Practices Commission ruled that Gee could not vote or participate in any discussion that could have a bearing on her current lawsuit against the authority.
Among 200 Plaintiffs
Gee is one of 200 San Fernando Valley homeowners who filed suit two years ago seeking damages for lowered property values and nuisance caused by airplane noise. The plaintiffs are each asking for $200,000 in damages.
Burbank City Atty. Douglas C. Holland told the council last week that Gee could "significantly reduce her potential conflict" if she would amend the homeowners' lawsuit, which seeks damages on the ground that the noise is a continuing nuisance. By amending the suit to designate the noise as a "one-time" permanent nuisance, Holland said, Gee might not be disqualified from voting on noise-related matters that come before the authority.
But, in an impassioned address to the council before the vote, Gee refused to agree to Holland's suggested change, which would preclude her from collecting damages for future noise.
"The nuisance suffered is continuing," she said.
"The airlines are competitive and strong forces that are only too anxious to make whatever they can out of opportunities at the Burbank airport," she said. "It has already been clearly proven that this is no time for the Gee family to give away what pitifully few resources it may have."
Gee said she does not have a conflict of interest because her claim is limited to a period before June 29, 1983.
"This is the fact that is being ignored in the hullabaloo being thrown out to confuse the matter," she said.
But Gee said she would not serve if airport commission attorneys do not eventually agree that she has no conflict.
Holland said Tuesday that Gee's participation in board discussions will be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Council members had delayed a decision on Gee's status since she had been unable to defend her position directly to them because of gallstone surgery two weeks ago.