Friday, January 17, 2014

Amended suit accuses former Hernando airport manager of protecting friend's business

BROOKSVILLE — Airplane management company Jet Concepts has filed an amended complaint against former Hernando airport director Don Silvernell, claiming Silvernell damaged the business in order to ensure a monopoly on fixed-base operator services for a close personal friend.

Jet Concepts and its president, Robert Rey, accuse Silvernell of violations of the Florida Antitrust Act and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Act and of interference with a business relationship.

Last August, Rey filed a lawsuit against Silvernell, accusing him of defamation and interference with a business relationship. A judge dismissed that case, but allowed Rey to file an amended complaint.

In the new complaint, Rey describes how he began to have problems with Silvernell as soon as he moved his business from American Aviation, which for decades had been the only fixed-base operator at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport. American Aviation is owned by John Petrick, a longtime friend of Silvernell. Rey made the move to the Brooksville Air Center when it opened as a second fixed-base operator in 2009, mostly because it had cheaper fuel.

In the months that followed, Rey says, he heard that potential business partners were being told that he was operating illegally at the airport. When he questioned Silvernell, he was told he needed an operator's permit, which became a challenge to obtain.

After Rey took over management of the Brooksville Air Center as the business struggled financially, Silvernell ordered fueling and other airplane services halted there, according to Rey. He also contacted a website where the air center had placed an advertisement and ordered it be taken down.

Brooksville Air Center ended up in foreclosure, and Hernando County purchased the facility. Rey started talking to another business about opening a new fixed-base operation, but that business walked away after Silvernell discouraged the partnership, Rey says.

"Silvernell attempted to thwart the efforts of Jet Concepts to operate a viable business at the Brooksville airport because he viewed Rey and Jet Concepts as threats to American Aviation,'' according to the complaint.

"Silvernell acted outside the scope of his employment when he sought to protect the virtual monopoly on fixed-base operator services offered by American Aviation,'' it states.

Silvernell's attorney, Joseph Flood, did not immediately respond to a request from the Times for comments.


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