Video: Tensions Flare During Robertson Airport Board Vote On FBO

Video: Tensions Flare During Robertson Airport Board Vote On FBO 

ROBERTSON COUNTY TENNESSEE: (Smokey Barn News) – Tensions were high at a special called and crowded Robertson County Airport Board meeting Tuesday Morning. The meeting would determine if Wingnuts Aviation would continue to manage the Springfield/Robertson County airport.

Smokey Barn News captured the entire meeting on video and as you can see, the room was packed, spilling out into adjacent hallways. Most in attendance appeared to be supporters of Wingnuts Aviation. Also in attendance were city leaders and the Mayor of Robertson County Billy Vogle.

According to Robertson County Attorney Clyde Richert, the purpose of the meeting Tuesday was for board members to vote on the performance of Wingnuts Aviation or, according to Richert, “to find satisfactory performance or not satisfactory.” The vote would determine the fate of the current contract between the Airport and Wingnuts Aviation.

As the board prepared to vote they were interrupted over ten times with questions and comments. At one point the Board’s Chairman Henry Ruth threatened to clear the room if they could not “behave.” (See video)

Four members of the board voted that Wingnuts performance “was not” satisfactory and two voted that Wingnuts performance “was” satisfactory. That meant the current contract (that expires on February 12) would not be renewed.

Wingnuts Aviation is currently suing the Airport for breach of contract.

The dispute focuses on the terms and conditions of the 5-year option, according to Wingnuts Aviation Attorney Edward Hadley. A copy of the suit and the contract are available here but the short of it is, the city/county contends that both parties must agree to extend the contract based on performance. Hadley contended that the contract offered his client (Wingnuts Aviation) unilateral authority to exercise a renewal of the contract and if the Board has issues with performance, the issues must be clearly defined and time must be given to correct the issues. However, at an injunction hearing on January 22, Robertson County Chancellor Laurence McMillan denied a temporary injunction that would have allowed Wingnuts to continue under the current contract.

Wingnuts Aviation, LLC, owned by Chris and Anna Ferraraccio, is asking for $3 million in the suit which is pointed at the City of Springfield, Robertson County, the Airport Board of Directors including the Board’s Chairman Henry Ruth and one former employee of Wingnuts.

After Tuesday’s vote, Wingnuts was technically out but, in an unusual move, the board unanimously agreed to offer an olive branch to Wingnuts Aviation in the form of a 90-day extension that will keep Wingnuts at the helm temporarily and allow both parties’ more time to try and work out some kind of agreement.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit will continue to make its way through the courts.

“There are pieces of this lawsuit that are not yet resolved. There are still issues to be resolved by the courts,” said Robertson County Attorney Clyde Richert.

As you can see in the video, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of people that believe Wingnuts has done a good job running the airport. Wingnuts Aviation has also worked hard to improve the airport and was an early champion of the new terminal that is currently under construction.

Getting to the bottom of the Board’s issue(s) with the contract (and or) Wingnuts Aviation is somewhat problematic at the moment because of Wingnuts’ lawsuit. The suit means that no one from the city or the county can talk about the case.

According to Springfield Alderman Clay Sneed, who briefly filled a vacancy on the Airport Board prior to Wingnuts, agrees with the Airport Boards decision to not renew. Sneed told Smokey Barn News that he is not completely apprised of all the issues that led to the non-renewal but Sneed did say, “The contract was written with a different facility, not geographically of course but operationally. As many of the emails and phone calls I received in support of Wingnuts, the support began and ended with how much the facility, personnel, and service had changed, and I agree,” Sneed said.

Sneed said he’s one of six elected officials having oversight over who is appointed to 5 of the 7 positions on the Airport Board and he hopes that Wingnuts can understand the improvements came with a partnership with many others. “Obviously, under the threat of a multi-million dollar lawsuit that has somewhat been adjudicated,  it will be difficult for the current members of the Airport Board to navigate this to an amicable end,” Sneed said.

Sneed added that he can’t control what the management of Wingnuts does but, what he can (and will do) is exercise his authority to ask the Airport Board members to resign.  Sneed said, he has asked for the resignations of Airport Board members that were appointed by the City via the Airport Board Chairman following the suit but he did not get a response. Sneed told Smokey Barn News that he will now seek the Airport Board’s recall through a Board of Mayor and Alderman motion during the city of Springfield’s February 19th meeting.

The question now is, will the board and Wingnuts Aviation be able to bridge the gap to an agreement within the next 90 days.

In a post on their Facebook page Wednesday, Wingnuts Aviation thanked their supporters.

“THANK YOU for the hundreds of emails, phone calls, and texts in support of the Wingnuts team as we negociate our contract. Your outpouring of support for and dedication to Wingnuts and our outstanding employees has been nothing less than humbling. The entire WN team thanks you!!”

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