Montrose County, JetAway Remain in Holding Pattern
by Beverly Corbell
Jul 22, 2010 | 3314 views | 1 1 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
STILL CLOSED — JetAway Aviation's building just north of Montrose Regional Airport has been inactive for months due to legal wranglings with Montrose County, but its antitrust lawsuit against the county is still active. (File photo)
STILL CLOSED — JetAway Aviation's building just north of Montrose Regional Airport has been inactive for months due to legal wranglings with Montrose County, but its antitrust lawsuit against the county is still active. (File photo)
MONTROSE – A federal court case by JetAway Aviation accusing Montrose County of violating antitrust laws is literally in a holding pattern, said a Denver attorney representing the county.

Attorney Bobbee Musgrave said that the judge “has held in abeyance,” or delayed, “our motion for summary judgment to dismiss the complaint.” Summary judgment means that the judge could make a determination without a full trial.

Musgrave said the legal grounds for holding the case in abeyance is to give JetAway a chance to do some discovery in the case.

“About a month ago they wanted to take several depositions and indicated they would serve us with written discovery, but I haven’t seen anything,” she said.

“I would have expected to see written discovery by now.”

The case goes back to December of 2005 when the county decided to get out of the private jet service business, which it conducted exclusively on the county-owned airport, and let the fixed base operator, or FBO, business out for bid. JetAway lost the bid and its legal war with the county began. Lawsuits were filed against the county and complaints made to the Federal Aviation Administration about the bid, while the county filed restraining orders against JetAway to stop it from conducting illegal business, like selling jet fuel, at their facility next to the airport. County rules required that the FBO be on airport property.

But the judge’s action doesn’t tip the antitrust suit in JetAway’s favor, Musgrave said.

“They have not gained ground from a substantial legal basis,” she said. “The judge just said, ‘You’ve made your allegations, now prove it.’”

JetAway wants to take depositions in August, but Musgrave said she is trying for a later date because one of the county’s lawyers is not available then. Montrose County Commissioner David White is among those asked to give a deposition, he said, but he’s not sure why since he wasn’t commissioner then and was not a principle in the controversy.

“I was mayor then and on the airport advisory board and on the MEDC [Montrose Economic Development Corporation] board,” he said, but was not directly involved.

“This is nothing more than a very expensive and elaborate fishing expedition,” he said. “They’re throwing names on the wall to see if anything will stick.”

Former commissioner Bill Patterson, the only commissioner individually named in the lawsuit, agrees with White that the depositions are simply a “fishing expedition.”

Patterson said the federal judge is allowing “limited discovery” of names submitted by JetAway’s former co-owner, Steve Stuhmer, who has since left Montrose. The company, which has been dormant for months, is also owned by Mike Gerdner. In the minutes from the Nov. 19, 2008 Montrose commissioners’ meeting, County Attorney Bob Hill defines JetAway operations as One Creative Place, JetAway and KMTJ Fuel, and said they are owned by Stuhmer, Paul Gerdner, Mike Gerdner and/or the Gerdner Family Trust.

Mike Gerdner agreed to an interview with the Watch, but did not return calls and could not be reached before press time.

The case has cost the county close to $1 million by now, Patterson said, adding he believes Gerdner has no intention of operating a business at the airport. To Gerdner and Stuhmer, this is just child’s play, he said, and they don’t care about the cost to the county.

“They are simply two spoiled kids that inherited a lot of money,” he said. “Steve and Mike have too much time on their hand and they’re the ones causing all the problems.”

It’s basically a real estate deal for them to make a few million dollars, he said, compounded now that the county is considering buying several acres of adjacent airport land to facilitate the construction of a private jet manufacturer considering Montrose for its next plant.

Once the county makes a commitment to buy more land around the airport, it will give Gerdner and others the opening to claim the county should buy their land, Patterson said.

“They’re looking at things a year or two years out,” he said. “A million here or there doesn’t matter to them. While the rest of us work for a living, they’re life in the fast lane. Any prudent businessman would not do business with them.” Patterson voiced concern that county commissioner candidate Glen Davis is a JetAway supporter. Davis has said he does not have a direct connection to JetAway, but rather with Western Skyways, another company located in the JetAway building. Western Skyways owner Al Head and Stuhmer were linked to an unsuccessful effort to recall Patterson as county commissioner two years ago.

Patterson said he has mistrusted the JetAway partners since meeting Stuhmer when he first moved to town.

“He was Mr. Big Time Operator,” he said. “He’s had money all his life and people like that don’t have much respect for those who earned it the honest and hard way. They’re trust fund people, and to them, it’s nothing.”
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