A former member of the Lewiston-Nez Perce County Regional Airport Authority board intends to sue the board and airport, claiming an airport employee slandered him.

Joe Gish, who briefly served on the airport’s governing board before resigning in August, brought the tort claim Wednesday, stating he may seek monetary damages.

A tort claim is a precursor to suing a public entity, which then has 90 days to respond. If the entity does not respond within that time frame, the person making the claim may file a lawsuit.

Gish, a Horizon Air pilot, alleges former airport employee Robin Turner filed an ethics complaint against him with Horizon, a subsidiary of Alaska Airlines. Gish specifically cites the airport, its joint owners — the city of Lewiston and Nez Perce County — and the joint authority board in his claim.

He attached the alleged ethics complaint to his claim, though Turner’s name is nowhere on the document and the Lewiston Tribune was unable to independently verify it was Turner who filed the complaint. Online ethics complaints filed with Horizon require a password and claim number, which are partially redacted in the tort claim.

Gish explains in the tort claim that his recollections from an August airport board meeting executive session led to his suspicion that Turner filed the ethics complaint against him. He also says another board member, Gary Peters, found a printout of the ethics claim in Turner’s desk when it was being cleaned out upon Turner’s firing in November.

The airport’s attorney, Danny Radakovich, wrote in an email, also attached to the tort claim, that he would send a letter to Horizon stating any complaint against Gish was not the result of any official action on behalf of the airport or airport board.

The author of the alleged ethics complaint attached to Gish’s tort says Gish tried to “blackmail” the airport board to gain votes and use the opportunity to be hired as the airport’s manager. The complaint also alleges Gish is “uncaring” when confronted about his behavior and suggests some possible mental illness. Several Tribune articles are listed as examples of Gish’s behavior.

Gish wrote in the claim that he contacted his “chief pilot” to inquire about the progress of the ethics complaint and was told it was closed, with no action taken, shortly after it was submitted. Gish wrote: “It would appear I have no damages at this time,” adding that his reputation suffered, as well as possible future employment, as a result of the ethics complaint. But Gish then states he is seeking approximately $433,000 in damages if he applies and is not granted employment through Alaska Airlines as a “first officer” for the next six years.

Horizon pulled its flights from the Lewiston airport in August, citing industry issues and lack of flights at full capacity.

Gish also included a Jan. 1 email he sent to Lewiston Mayor Mike Collins in which he suggested the city is rife with “corruption” and pleaded with Collins to remedy the airport board issues.

“Now I am being forced to defend my reputation with a law suit (sic), but I really hate suing the airport and wish I could just sue your appointees personally so I don’t hurt the airport and its ability to get insurance,” he wrote.

Holm may be contacted at (208) 848-2275 or tholm@lmtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomHolm4.

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