“We were absolutely thrilled with the ruling and couldn’t have asked for better,” said County Manager Joe Kerby. “It vindicated the county as far as the actions we’ve taken.”
The complaints to the FAA, instigated by JetAway Aviation in January of last year, Kerby said, and all were ruled invalid.
“The director found there was not sufficient evidence and dismissed all of their claims,” he said.
A statement released by the county says that Randall Fiertz, director of the FAA’s Office of Airport Compliance and Field Operations, signed a Director’s Determination “dismissing the Part 16 complaint filed by JetAway Aviation…against Montrose County and the Montrose County Building Authority.”
In the 50-page document, the county says, states that “…the evidence presented by the complainant (JetAway) is insufficient to eclipse the airport’s proprietary responsibility to make decisions that best serve the aeronautical interests of the public and the interests of the airport…”
A federal court judge in Denver had put a stay on court proceedings on the anti-trust suit until the FAA issue was resolved, said Montrose County Attorney Bob Hill.
“We will provide a copy (of the FAA ruling) to the judge and see where it goes from there in terms of the stay,” Hill said.
If the judge decides to lift the stay, the case would proceed to litigation, Hill said.
“I imagine at some point a status conference will be scheduled and then we will know better where we stand,” he said.
Former Montrose County Commissioner Bill Patterson said he was glad to hear the FAA ruled in the county’s favor. Patterson was the subject of a failed recall attempt last year, which he believes JetAway’s manager, Steven Stuhmer, was behind.
The many court proceedings with JetAway and defense of the failed recall have cost Montrose County hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past four years, Patterson said.
Stuhmer did not return calls but reportedly said the FAA decision would help his federal anti-trust lawsuit against the county.
The anti-trust suit was brought by JetAway last year after previously losing the bid to become the sole fixed-base operator, or FBO, at the county-owned airport to Black Canyon Jet Center.
JetAway has since been given FBO status, but cannot sell fuel or service airplanes, a moot point anyway since the county has withdrawn airport access to the company, putting it virtually out of business.
The county’s conflict with JetAway began in late 2005 when the county got out of private jet services and let the bid for fixed-base operator, or FBO, services to Black Canyon Jet Center. JetAway has been filing lawsuits ever since and the battle has cost the county more than $750,000 in legal fees.
Located just north of airport property, JetAway has been issued restraining orders to stop conducting FBO operations and has been banned by the county from using airport property since November of last year.
To continue to do business at the airport, the county required JetAway to present its own evidence, provided it submitted a signed access permit agreement and “tendered payment of required fees.”
Those required fees came to about $50,000 per year, considerably more than the $250 per year JetAway pays now. JetAway has never submitted an access permit agreement or paid the required fees.
Patterson said the county has been hounded by JetAway long enough and he predicted that the federal judge would throw out the anti-trust suit as well.
“They’re after commercial access to the airport without paying for it,” he said.