The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating concerns raised by a former Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport manager about potential security issues and use of airport resources for functions not related to aviation there.
The Lewiston airport disputes the allegations and will respond to the FAA on or before a Nov. 16 deadline, Airport Director Michael Isaacs said in an email.
The possible problems were brought to the attention of the FAA at the end of July in an email from Robin Turner, who was Lewiston’s airport manager for nearly 28 years until his retirement in 2014.
After that, Turner served in part-time and interim roles at the airport, including most recently as assistant manager before being fired from that post in November 2018. He filed suit over that decision and received a $50,000 settlement from Nez Perce County, an owner of the airport.
Turner’s July email, the FAA’s responses and other documents were obtained by the Lewiston Tribune from the airport in a public records request.
“The complainant alleges that events have been hosted on the airport with increasing use of airport resources to support non-aviation functions,” including two memorial services and a “partisan political fundraiser,” according to a letter the FAA sent the airport dated Aug. 28.
According to what Turner shared with the FAA, the memorial services happened in two separate hangars that belong to different people.
The federal agency also is examining whether any activities posed security issues, according to the FAA letter.
Among the questions are if political party gatherings allowed access to the airport’s controlled area through a personal hangar, if airport staff opened a gate and disabled the controller “thereby losing all accountability of those attending private events” and if vehicles entered the premises without authorization checks, according to the FAA letter.
The FAA letter does not identify the events it is examining.
Turner’s July email that prompted the FAA investigation questions an airport authority board decision, made just days before he sent it, to revoke the lease of Stout Flying Service at the Lewiston airport. That board decision is in mediation with attorneys representing Stout and the airport.
About a month after his email, the FAA provided Turner a copy of the letter it sent to the Lewiston airport and indicated it would not be pursuing other issues he raised.
The FAA stated it made that determination because there was no violation, or the issues are outside the city of Lewiston’s obligations to the federal government as the airport’s sponsor.
In Turner’s July email, he wondered if Stout’s lease was treated differently than Gary Peters’ lease for a Lewiston airport hangar. Peters, chairman of the airport authority board, declined to comment.
The airport authority board ended the Stout lease after learning the business didn’t maintain public liability and property damage insurance from Jan. 2 to May 21, as required by its lease.
Stout’s owners have acknowledged a gap in a portion of their coverage, which they said was for minor injuries in their building, like falls, and noted the business had no accidents during the time when they didn’t have that policy. They said everything else was insured.
Peters, according to Turner’s email, used his hangar for political party gatherings, airport board-sponsored public hearings and a public memorial service.
“Gary Peters’ use of his hangar for non-aviation purposes places his lease in a defaulting condition,” Turner wrote. “By ignoring his default and using a past (now corrected) default of another tenant’s lease as reason for lease termination, the airport board is engaged in selective lease enforcement, a practice easily interpreted as unjust economic discrimination.”
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