ROCK FALLS – After half a century as the Whiteside County Airport Board's attorney, Dave Murray resigned Thursday after months of being dogged by a regional watchdog group.
"Everything comes to an end," he said following the 3 and-a-half-hour board meeting. "It's time, and there's too much going on."
The 81-year-old is a retired partner of Ward, Murray, Pace & Johnson and spends 7 months out of the year living in The Villages, Florida.
Beyond legal advice and representation, he attends airport board meetings, prepares the minutes and agendas, performs bookkeeping tasks and drafts the budget, among other duties.
He also became a pilot and flew north of 1,600 hours at the airport during those decades as new facilities cropped up and runways were built.
"Serving the airport has been more than a client relationship," he read from his resignation letter. "It has been a passion watching and participating in the short- and long-range developments that have occurred, which have made Whiteside one of the outstanding general aviation airports in the United States."
His resignation is effective June 30 and is the third resignation since Edgar County Watchdogs Inc., a regional watchdog group that puts a microscope to smaller government entities and their adherence to open meeting laws and spending of taxpayer dollars, set its sights on the airport board.
On April 18, former board Chairman Stan Domack Jr., 82, and board member John Zaeske, 74, resigned. Drew Wilkens and Monte Van Kooten were appointed to fill those spots and were sworn in May 15 and Thursday, respectively.
Specifically, Edgar County Watchdogs founder John Kraft wanted to know why Murray, an outside attorney, was doing the job the state’s attorney is statutorily required to do.
Murray is paid about $175 an hour, roughly $17,000 a year.
After continued back and forth on whether the board had the legal authority to hire outside counsel – one state statute on county airport law says it can and another says it can't – Murray said it was time to retire.
"I'm not interested in making a career out of fighting it," he said.
Chairman David Koster recently dug up the board's original book of minutes dating back to July 22, 1943, and said the board falls under statute 620 ILCS, which allows it to employ or enter into contracts with persons or firms for professional services, such as legal representation.
He said the board has been paying legal fees since at least 1956.
Koster is confident they operated legally under the statute but said there was "no smoking gun proof" prior to finding the time-worn records.
He said he was surprised by the resignation but understands Murray's decision.
"It's readily apparent of your love for aviation, this community and this airport," Koster said. "I wish you well in your retirement."
The Whiteside County Airport Board will have a special meeting at 5 p.m. June 29 at the airport's Terminal Building, 10950 Hoover Road.