County spokeswoman Ana Mostaccero said, “It’s a lot of money” and “the county has been under siege.”
The siege began in late 2005 when JetAway lost the bid to become the Montrose airport’s fixed-base operator, providing general aviation services to private air carriers, to Black Canyon Jet Center. Before the bid, general aviation services, including fuel, had been handled by the county, which owns the airport.
JetAway has filed scores of lawsuits against the county since that time, including the latest version of an anti-trust suit filed against the county, the county commissioners and the county attorney.
JetAway has defied restraining orders in the past to stop selling fuel and acting as an FBO and last week was denied access to the airport for a 30-day period by the county commissioners.
The decision to block JetAway from the airport was forced, said Commissioner Allan Belt, because Montrose District Court Judge James Schum issued a new restraining order against JetAway.
Mostaccero said the county didn’t initiate the extended court battle with JetAway and has followed all the rules as defined by the courts and the Federal Aviation Administration, which provides funding for the airport and defines regulations on its use.
Mostaccero said the hearing to expel JetAway was necessary.
“Do you let any person with deep pockets think they can get away with not listening to the courts and be above the law and take unfair advantage (of the county)?” she asked.
The deep pockets she referred to go back to investor Paul Girdner, of Boise, Idaho, who testified during court hearings last year that he was JetAway’s financial backer and “paid the bills” for JetAway, according to Commissioner Bill Patterson.
Patterson said JetAway’s manager, Steve Stuhmer, is behind a failed recall attempt against him this year, and getting the airport FBO contract was the motive.
That same motive was behind attack ads against him during the recent election, Patterson said, who has filed suit against Stuhmer for violating fair campaign practice laws. Patterson said he has spent $40,000 of his own money in his legal wrangling with JetAway and the recall attempt.
The legal fees the county paid for JetAway court cases comes out of the county’s general fund, Mostaccero said. County Administrator Joe Kerby has said in the past that the airport would have been paying for itself and in the black except for the county’s legal fees in fighting JetAway.