A former Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport employee raised questions Tuesday about a decision by the board overseeing the transportation hub to revoke the lease of Stout Flying Service.
The airport authority board stated it ended the lease because failing to do so would be a violation of Federal Aviation Administration rules that might jeopardize securing money from the agency, said J.R. Spencer, a former airport security coordinator.
But Spencer said he had an email from the FAA that he described as a document where the FAA indicated that was not the case.
“The FAA is not a party to lease agreements, and is therefore (sic) does not become involved in lease negotiations, mediation, or termination procedures,” according to an email Spencer said was written by Peter Doyle of the FAA to Robin Turner, a former Lewiston airport manager.
“The process by which you reached your decision was corrupted and arbitrary,” Spencer said.
Airport officials have stated they ended the Stout lease after learning the business didn’t maintain public 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.
That decision is in mediation, with a meeting set for Oct. 7, said authority board Chairman Gary Peters.
Paula Stout, an owner of Stout Flying Service, said Tuesday she was waiting to hear about mediation dates.
Spencer asked the board to reverse its decision about Stout “to mitigate costly litigation” and retain a family business that has been at the airport for three decades.
He also brought up an investigation the FAA is doing that involves allegations of potential security issues and use of airport resources for functions not related to aviation.
The airport has disputed the allegations and will make a formal response to the FAA on or before a Nov. 16 deadline.
The issues the FAA is examining were raised by Turner, in an email that was separate from the one Spencer quoted at Tuesday’s meeting.
Peters, according to Turner, has used his hangar for political party gatherings, airport board-sponsored public hearings and a public memorial service. A second memorial service in a different hangar was also mentioned in a letter the FAA sent to the airport announcing its investigation.
Since Peters’ activities are being looked at by the FAA, he has a conflict of interest and shouldn’t be involved in the airport’s response to the FAA, Spencer said.
Given the FAA investigation, the airport authority board should also consider ending the lease for the hangar Peters uses, since it set a precedent with Stout Flying Service, Spencer said.
No board members addressed Spencer’s comments at the meeting.
After the meeting, Peters said in a text that he has helped organize numerous events at the airport in the last five years with crowds ranging from 50 to 15,000, always trying to follow all applicable protocols.
“We have never experienced any problems whatsoever,” he said. “For years, many other similar events have been held at other private hangars on the airport without any problems that I am aware of.”
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