Mayor Bill Purcell has nominated businessman Frank Garrison to replace Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Gilbert Merritt as the pilot representative on the 10-member Nashville International Airport Authority board. Pending approval by the Metro Council and the Airport Authority board, Garrison will serve out the remaining two years on Merritt’s term.
Since 2003, Garrison has served as president and principal of Overton Capital LLC, a private investment firm. Previously, he served as chairman of Insignia Financial Group Inc., a New York City-based, publicly traded real estate services and investment company, and president of Insignia Financial Services.
Other members of the consequential Airport Authority include Purcell, James H. Cheek III, Deborah A. McDermott, Irby Simpkins and Jack Bovender.
Citing concerns he was on a collision course with a legal or ethical conflict, Merritt stepped down from the Authority earlier this year.
Heightened levels of security at airports, which often involves baggage searches, was one of many reasons that prompted Merritt to decide to step down.
“There is much more law enforcement activity at airports these days and it may or may not create a claim by someone some day,” Merritt told NashvillePost.com. “Such a case might well come before the federal courts. That was in the back of my mind as well. It may be that I am someday asked to rule on a case that derived from a different airport but that could affect what happens at the Nashville airport.”
Merritt also cited instances in the recent past when employees of the Nashville airport had filed suit or threatened to file suit in claims that might have ended up in federal court. The rule-making authority of the Airport Authority with regard to employment and termination of employment also concerned Merritt. He said it was better that he stepped aside from the position now rather than run the risk of ending up in the middle of a legal or ethical quandary.
“It’s easy to accuse a federal judge of having a bias,” Merritt concluded. “That’s one of the reasons for the Canons of Ethics.”
Merritt said his decision was probably delayed by the fact that during his recent stint in Iraq working to erect a judicial system for that country he missed numerous Airport Authority meetings. Attendance at those meetings, he said, might have sped his awareness that conflicts could lie in the offing.