Sunday, January 22, 2017

Grand Junction Regional Airport (KGJT) fires at Jviation, countering its lawsuit

Had a Front Range consultant lived up to its billing on aviation-related matters, Grand Junction Regional Airport might never have ended up in the mess it did, the airport says in court papers.

The company, Jviation Inc., “held itself out as an expert in a variety of aviation-related areas,” including dealing with the Federal Aviation Administration, its bidding and regulatory functions, as well as “expertise in federal funding procedures through personnel formerly associated with the FAA,” the airport said in a counterclaim to a lawsuit filed by Jviation.

Jviation sued the airport last year, demanding $225,000 in payment for work it did at the airport.

Airport officials are ultimately responsible for the problems that beset it, said Heather Hanneman, an attorney representing Jviation.

“Jviation has done work for the airport for years and the airport was always very happy with this work,” Hanneman said, noting that Jviation relied on information given to it by airport officials.

Jviation officials “want to get their story out. We’re very confident that the evidence is going to show Jviation was not at fault” in issues surrounding construction of the airport administration building and security fence, Hanneman said.

Jviation’s close relationship with airport officials, especially Rex Tippetts, the former director of aviation at Grand Junction Regional Airport, was at the heart of a series of events that went awry, according to the airport’s filings in Mesa County District Court.

Over the course of a relationship that began in 2008, airport officials developed trust in Jviation to the extent that the company became a fiduciary, or adviser trusted to care for money or other assets prudently, in dealing with the FAA, the airport said.

Jviation, meanwhile, curried a close relationship with Rex Tippetts, the airport’s director of aviation, by giving him tickets to sporting events and travel opportunities, according to filings.

“Individuals from Jviation traveled with Tippetts on vacation and socialized with Tippetts and his wife outside of the work environment,” the court papers said.

Tippetts discussed with Jviation his plans for a new terminal — later an administration building, which remains unfinished — even though the project was not among those included in the 2008 agreement, the filings said.

Jviation’s advice resulted in mishandling bids for the $6.2 million building, which included Tippetts negotiating with the low bidder to bring the project within budget, even though several other builders put in bids, according to the airport.

Jviation failed to advise Tippetts that negotiating only with the low bidder was against FAA rules, the airport said.

“During this material period, false statements were made to the (airport) board at publicly held board meetings regarding the compliance with FAA rules for grant procurement and contractor bidding,” the filings say.

Ultimately, the airport halted construction on the project and relinquished FAA grants for it, leaving the airport with no way to finish the job.

“In addition (the airport) has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorneys’ fees that otherwise would not have been incurred but for Jviation’s breach of its obligations” to the airport, the filing said.

The airport is on the hook for $16,500 — and possibly as much as $16.5 million — in a whistleblower suit alleging that it fraudulently pursued FAA funding for construction of the security fence. It also has to return $520,000 to the FAA for constructing the fence with an electrified topper, which hadn’t been approved by the agency.

Jviation failed the airport with its advice regarding construction of the fence, the airport said.

Jviation had no fault in the electrified topper issue, according to a sworn declaration filed by the manager of the FAA’s Denver District, which found no fraud “related to the electrification of the three strand wire topper.”

The FAA decided after discussions with the Transportation Security Administration that the electrified fence topper was ineligible for federal funding.

The airport is seeking unspecified damages for negligent misrepresentation, fraud by nondisclosure, breach of fiduciary duty and breach of contract.

In its original complaint, Jviation said it was owed $133,000 for work on the administration building and $92,000 for work on a new placement for a remote receiver-transmitter.

Original article can be found here:

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