Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Judge Hears Arguments in Airport Case Against County: Martha's Vineyard (KMVY), Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts

A superior court judge heard arguments Tuesday afternoon on both sides of a dispute between the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission and its appointing authority, the county of Dukes County. 

Held in the Edgartown courthouse during a special sitting of the court, the hearing saw spirited debate about the legal independence of the airport and also whether the dispute belonged in court in the first place.

In May, the airport filed a complaint seeking to prevent the county from exerting certain controls over airport affairs, detailing four counts for declaratory and injunctive relief.

At the close of Tuesday’s hearing, the Hon. Richard Chin, an associate justice of the superior court, said he would take the matter under advisement and issue a written opinion.

The debate centers around the question of which agency has ultimate authority over the airport.

Airport counsel David Mackey argued that the county is attempting to exert extreme controls over the airport, citing efforts to install the county manager as an ex-officio member on the airport commission, refusals of the county treasurer to pay the airport’s legal bills and efforts by the treasurer to obtain itemized legal bills directly from airport counsel.

In his preparation, Mr. Chin said he had read up on the last jurisdictional dispute between the two bodies. A case brought by former airport manager William Weibrecht that was decided in 2006 confirmed the airport’s authority to set the salaries and contracts of its employees.

In the latest lawsuit, the airport seeks expanded recognition of its autonomy from Dukes County. On the motion for a preliminary injunction Mr. Mackey said the matter is urgent because it is important to settle confusions about “who is running the show.”

Further, he warned that a decision in the county’s favor would repudiate grant assurances governing the receipt of public grant funds, potentially rendering the airport ineligible to future funding and responsible for repaying previous funding. The airport attorney estimated the potential liability at some $40 million.

“The airport cannot be in a position where the county is wielding control over it,” Mr. Mackey said.

But Judge Chin said he saw no immediate threat to the airport’s sovereignty.

“They have not shown up at the airport trying to take it over,” he said.

He also questioned whether it is appropriate for the court to get involved in the matter, suggesting instead that the lawyers should be the ones protecting the attorney-client privilege.

“I think the onus is on the lawyers to say, I’m not giving it to you,” the judge said, referring to the dispute over whether the county had the right to obtain itemized legal bills involving the airport.

But Mr. Mackey said the person seeking the invoices had shown a “complete lack of clarity” in requests to the law offices. He conceded that the airport is subject to the state public records law, but argued that the airport commission gets to decide what to release.

Mr. Chin said his concern was that the court not get involved in a public records ruling, especially in the context of attorney-client communications.

Representing the county, attorney Robert Troy challenged the need for court intervention. He said the dispute is a political controversy, not a legal one.

“Ultimately, the county commissioners are in control,” he said, because they appoint the members of the airport commission. He added that the county respects the authority of the airport over aeronautic aspects of the airport.

Further, he said the county supports the judge’s decision in the Weibrecht case in assigning control over airport employee salary and contracts to the airport, but he said that control is not broadly drawn.

One trigger for the current complaint was a vote in April by the county commission to recognize the ex-officio, non-voting membership on the airport commission by county manager Martina Thornton. Ms. Thornton had reportedly had been denied entrance to parts of meetings held in executive session.

Mr. Troy told Judge Chin that the county manager is already a member of the board, since according to Massachusetts General Laws and the county administrative code, the county manager serves as ex-officio member on any board that the county appoints.

He said the manager’s participation on the board would not constitute a reorganization of the board, as it is already on the books.

In rebuttal, Mr. Mackey said adding an eighth person to a seven-member board constituted a reorganization. The state airport act, he said, establishes a board with an odd number of members.

“I don’t know how to reconcile the number eight with the word odd,” he said.

On the subject of the legal bills, Mr. Troy said the state public records law already requires the airport to provide itemization of the bills or to provide an exemption if they are not releasing them to the public.

“The airport should have been in communication with the treasurer and not coming to court,” he said. “To enjoin the county treasurer is to bury the terms of the statute.”

The judge said he saw no see a present controversy with the legal bills.

“The bills have been paid,” he said. “What would I rule on?”

In the end Judge Chin said he would review what is in the record and issue a written decision.

- Source: http://mvgazette.com

The Hon. Richard Chin heard arguments Tuesday in the case of the airport versus the county.   - Mark Lovewell 

Attorney Robert Troy for the county: “Ultimately, the county commissioners are in control." — Mark Lovewell   
Attorney David Mackey for the airport: “The airport cannot be in a position where the county is wielding control over it.” — Mark Lovewell

Young Eagles take to the Truckee Tahoe sky

The Truckee Tahoe Air Show & Family Festival has come and gone and it was a great event. The local EAA Chapter 1073 registered Young Eagles on the day of the air show, and gave them free airplane rides the next day. 

 Several volunteers helped with registration Saturday and then helped with keeping things organized on Sunday when several pilots brought their aircraft out to fly the Young Eagles. The whole team of about 20 volunteers supported doing flights for 128 very happy kids.

The EAA’s Young Eagles Program introduces young people ages 8 through 17 to aviation by giving them a free airplane ride. Pilots receive no compensation other than the smiles they see on the youths’ faces.

EAA pilots have flown more than 1.8 million Young Eagles across the nation and in several other nations since the program started in 1992. The local chapter has flown more than 2,500.

Once a youngster becomes a Young Eagle, many opportunities open to them, including a free Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course, EAA Student Membership, scholarships, etc. For more information on the program visit youngeagles.org

Many thanks to all of our volunteer ground crew and our volunteer pilots. Thanks also to the Young Eagles who flew with us and got a taste of the joy of flying over our beautiful area.

Tom Meadows is the EAA 1073 Young Eagles Coordinator.

- Source:  http://www.tahoedailytribune.com

Courtesy Brian Pratte
Three happy Young Eagles were presented flight certificates by their pilot Kevin Quinn. In addition to their certificate, each Young Eagle receives a logbook in which to record their flights.

Airport harassment incident prompts calls for investigation: Floyd Bennett Memorial (KGFL) Queensbury, Warren County, New York

QUEENSBURY -- Two Warren County supervisors have called for a county investigation into why police were summoned to investigate whether a government critic illegally harassed the county airport’s manager.

The complaint by Warren County Airport Manager Ross Dubarry was made after Queensbury resident Travis Whitehead had a confrontation with him at the airport July 18.

Two Warren County sheriff’s officers visited Whitehead’s home later that day, but police said no criminal charges were warranted.

Whitehead acknowledged he became angry and called Dubarry a “sorry son of a bitch” after overhearing a phone conversation Dubarry was having in which he was purportedly formulating an excuse to avoid a meeting with Whitehead and Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Mark Westcott.

Westcott and Whitehead are members of a group that has questioned a number of airport decisions, including the planned extension of the main runway and cutting of trees around the airport.

The criticism has turned acrimonious at times, which along with the police involvement was a topic of discussion Tuesday at a meeting of the county Board of Supervisors Facilities Committee.

Westcott and Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Doug Beaty said they wanted to know how police came to be sent to Whitehead’s home.

“It seemed like an extreme response for the situation, in my opinion,” Westcott said.

Warren County Sheriff Bud York said Dubarry called county Undersheriff Shawn Lamouree after the confrontation to report it, and said that he wanted to file a complaint if any laws were broken. Officers were sent to Whitehead’s home to interview him to get his side of the story, York said.

Sheriff’s officers and the Warren County District Attorney’s Office determined no charges were warranted.

Westcott said he and Whitehead went to the airport that morning to get a copy of an airport map before the county board meeting the next day.

Whitehead said he stopped outside Dubarry’s office when he heard him on the phone, but was taken aback by what he heard.

After Whitehead heard Dubarry’s phone conversation from outside his office, he confronted him and followed him out of the building, at one point calling him a “sorry son of a bitch.”

Westcott was arriving at the building at that point, and caught the end of the exchange.

Queensbury at-Large Supervisor Rachel Seeber said she had concerns about second-guessing a county employee’s calling of police if they believed they were in danger.

Westcott, though, said “safety was not an issue.”

Westcott said he had made numerous requests for the map in the weeks prior, but Public Works Superintendent Jeff Tennyson said he had twice provided it to Westcott. Westcott, though, said the one that was given to him was not the one he sought.

Dubarry had no comment on the matter after Tuesday’s meeting. Dusek also had no comment, saying he was still looking into the situation.

Beaty and Westcott have also questioned whether county leaders are looking into allegations that Dubarry was heard apparently fabricating an excuse to avoid a meeting with a supervisor and county resident.

Westcott also took issue with county officials not answering questions on airport issues posed by the public at public meetings, particularly a recent public hearing on an eminent domain proceeding.

County Attorney Martin Auffredou said responses would be provided as required for public hearings.

Queensbury Supervisor John Strough said discussion of airport issues “has not been polite, has not been civil” recently.

“I have to note the temperament has not been pleasant,” Strough said.

Whitehead was not at Tuesday’s meeting.

- Source:  http://poststar.com

Albuquerque leaders shocked at 8,900 lbs airport copper heist: Albuquerque International Sunport (KABQ), New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The Albuquerque Airport is ground zero for a scheme so unusual it sparked a major investigation. 

“Sure it’s a big deal,” Albuquerque Aviation Director Jim Hinde said.

According to investigators, airport electricians James Lunsford, Rocky Medina, Ronnie Padilla and Jason Pettis took part in a sophisticated scheme to make big bucks by stealing city property.

“Shock… Absolute shock,” Hinde said. “Anytime the city is losing money because of apparently illegal activity it’s a big deal that needs to be addressed.”

The key to this investigation is a treasure hunt of sorts and you have to follow the clues. But don’t bother looking in all the obvious places. You won’t find anything at baggage claim or in the concourse. You can also forget about looking in all those planes, taking off and landing.

The clues to this modern day treasure hunt leads to Runway 17/35. The once busy stretch of pavement was permanently closed to air traffic two years ago, leaving the runway inactive. Just below the surface is a “pot of gold” of sorts.

Underneath the runway were miles of wiring controlling all the air field electronics and lighting. When Runway 17/35 was decommissioned in 2012, all the wiring was pulled out and stockpiled at a nearby warehouse.

Faced with a stockpile of old runway wire gathering dust, airport managers told the staff to get rid of it. City regulations require surplus property be offered for sale at a public auction.

The wiring was offered for sale on Albuquerque’s online public auction site where it was photographed and simply described as ‘scrap wire #8′ with a value of $250. No quantity was listed.

It was sold at the end of the two week online auction for $2,100. The high bidder was airport electrician James Lunsford.

Lunsford took the 8,900 pounds of scrap copper wire to Pueblo Metals Recycling and was paid $16,000. He then split the profits with Padilla, Medina and Pettis.

Anyone who participated in the auction would have thought they were bidding on a pallet of scrap wire worth just a few hundred bucks. However, only the airport employees knew the city was actually auctioning off four and half tons of copper core scrap.

Investigators allege the employees rigged the auction so they could grab the valuable wire for themselves. Before surplus city property can be sold at auction it must first be approved by an airport manager.

“I had signed off on the surplus form that showed scrap wire,” Aviation Director Hinde said. “I was not aware they were auctioning off four tons of wire.”

When asked if it was accurate to put the fair market value of the wire at $250, Hinde said it was “not accurate at all.” He also said that the people who approved the sale would have never seen what was out there.

“There is some trust factor you have to have on the approval process on these forms,” Hinde said.

Pueblo Metals Recycling was not so trusting. Because it’s not every day that someone comes in off the street wanting to sell four tons of copper wire, Pueblo Metals checked with airport maintenance manager Chuck Brice to verify Lunsford’s story that he had legitimately purchased the wire from the airport. Brice told Pueblo Metals everything was fine, no problem.

“I don’t think Chuck either was aware of the misrepresentation as to the amount of wire that was involved in the transaction,” Hinde said. “I believe there were some management mistakes made.”

Shortly after the wire auction, the airport auctioned off surplus runway signs. Aviation electrician Rocky Medina drew up the paperwork and listed the sign’s value as $200. Brice and Hinde approved the deal. And once again, Lunsford was the high bidder and bought the signs for $640.

Lunsford took his purchase to Earth Day Recycling and was paid almost $2,000. Again, the airport gang of four divvied up the profit.

This time Brice ordered an investigation. However, the 2012 probe was concluded with a verbal reprimand and Brice dropped the matter.

Two years later an airport whistleblower came forward and blew the lid off the questionable auctions. Disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against Brice.

Earlier this year, the private investigative firm of Robert Caswell Investigations was called in. The firm’s internal investigation was completed earlier this month.

As a result of the city investigation, disciplinary proceedings have been initiated against airport electricians Rocky Medina and Jason Pettis.

Ronnie Padilla transferred to the Water Authority and is no longer a city employee.

James Lunsford retired in May. The former airport electrician told KRQE, he never tried to hide a thing.

“We were just trying to, just like anybody else, purchase something , see if we could make a little extra money but as far as us thinking we did something wrong? No. We would never have done that. And that’s the god’s truth,” Lunsford said.

An Albuquerque administrator told KRQE it is currently not against regulations for city employees to bid on items offered in city auctions. However, he says, this case is being referred to the Albuquerque Police Department for a criminal investigation.

Story and Video:  http://khon2.com

Funnel cloud spotted at EAA AirVenture

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WFRV) - Folks at EAA on Sunday night got quite a scare. It wasn't just planes they were looking at in the sky.

A photo of a funnel cloud was snapped Sunday evening just after 7:00 p.m.

The National Weather Service in Green Bay says there was no threat of severe weather in area.

A warning was not issued which was why none of the sirens went off.

Story and Video:   http://www.wearegreenbay.com

Domestic incident leads to arrest, charges, say cops: QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning at Solberg-Hunterdon Airport (N51), Readington, New Jersey

READINGTON — A Warren County man was arrested at the QuickChek New jersey Festival of Ballooning at Solberg-Hunterdon Airport on Saturday, July 26, police report.

At about 4:30 p.m., Lt. Scott Crater was on foot patrol at the festival when he became aware of a disturbance involving a male and a female, police said. They gave the following account.

Crater attempted to intervene but the 48-year-old man was uncooperative and refused to follow the officer's orders. Crater arrested the man on a charge of obstructing the administration of law.

Crater learned that just before his interaction with the couple they had been arguing, and the man had punched the woman in her face causing a visible injury. The woman was the man's girlfriend, and an employee at the festival, police said.

The man was charged with domestic violence assault and obstructing the administration of law. He was later released.

- Source:   http://www.nj.com

Hail Storm Damages Plane Headed to AirVenture Oshkosh: South Wood County Airport (KISW), Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin

Hail in Wisconsin Rapids damaged homes, gardens, cars, and even a few planes early Sunday morning. Including one that was going to be in AirVenture Oshkosh 2014. The pilot was forced to withdraw it from the event.

"It was home-built," said Howard Joling, Wisconsin Rapids Airport Manager. "It really looked nice it was sharp. he was going to enter it in a contest, but of course that won't happen now because it has hail damage."

While that plane still flew to Oshkosh, one other plane remains in a hangar at Alexander Field South Wood County Airport. It's an example of the damage the hail caused.

"The damage is not repairable. You just can't repair because you would have to re-skin the whole aircraft, which is not worth it," said Joling.

The plane, originally built in the 1960s, is now worth thousands of dollars less.

"It was probably worth around thirty two thousand before," Joling said. "Maybe you can get ten thousand for it now but I'm not sure. The resale value has gone way down. Because who wants to buy an airplane full of dents?"

However, the damage is only skin deep. The planes that were damaged can still fly.

"If a person doesn't mind the dents, they'll still have a good airplane. But most people want an airplane that looks nice," Joling said.

Sunday morning's hail may have taken one plane out of flying at this year's AirVenture, but it hasn't taken it out of the sky completely.

Story and Video:  http://www.wsaw.com