Friday, July 21, 2006

Council scolds mayor over FAA letter

Thorson defends his actions

Express Staff Writer

The Sun Valley City Council criticized the city's leading official this week for sending a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration without informing city legislators first.

"(The letter) does leave the impression it is the official position of the city, when it is on city letterhead and signed by the mayor," Councilman Nils Ribi said. Ribi requested discussion of the mayor's letter during a Wednesday, July 19, City Council work session.

Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson and Ketchum Mayor Randy Hall recently signed a letter to the FAA to delay action on approving a new airport site while they raise money to conduct their own study. The mayors composed and mailed an 850-word letter on June 30 to FAA Northwest Mountain Region Manager J. Wade Bryant, without the knowledge of council members in either city.

"The night before you sent the letter we had a City Council meeting. We could have talked about it," Ribi said. The Sun Valley City Council held three meetings the week the letter was sent.

"I don't have a sense of your dealings with other communities ... I think we need more information on a regular basis" Councilman Lud Renick said.

Thorson defended his actions, which came nearly a year after a citizens site selection committee recommended building a new airport in southern Blaine County.

"Some of what I did, was, as a mayor, being concerned about my community and doing my job," said Thorson.

At the time of incident, Thorson told the Mountain Express the letter was "not an official position" of the city and therefore didn't require council approval. Thorson said he and his wife wrote the letter along with Hall, and added "some information" came from Ketchum real estate executive Dick Fenton, a member of the site committee and critic of a distant airport site.

"I am clear I was speaking as mayor on behalf of the city of Sun Valley," Thorson said. He said he had concerns over the accuracy of the site selection study and the impact on Sun Valley, but did not comment whether the airport should be moved.

"I think your aim was true; your method was misguided," Councilman Blair Boand said.

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