Photo by Hubble Ray Smith.
KINGMAN – With little discussion and by unanimous vote, Kingman Airport Authority’s board of directors approved $100,000 in additional legal fees Monday to fight the city’s takeover action.
The airport authority hired Andrew Federhar of the Phoenix law firm Spencer Fane in October to protect the airport’s interests and 25-year lease, which has become a flashpoint for Kingman City Council.
Several Councilmembers were elected on campaign promises of regaining control of the city’s assets at the 4,000-acre airport and industrial park, unhappy with KAA’s financial reports, lack of business developments and deteriorating conditions at airport facilities.
Krystal Burge, president of the KAA board, said the airport’s finance manager recommended increasing the legal fees from $50,000 to $100,000.
“I think what we had would be fine, but we don’t want to come back in two weeks or a month or two months if we need another $10,000,” she said after the special meeting to authorize the line item expenditure.
The City of Kingman, dissatisfied with management and operations at the airport, sent a notice of condemnation to KAA in November, seeking to acquire KAA’s lease and assets.
The civil case has been remanded from U.S. District Court in Phoenix back to Mohave County Superior Court, with a hearing scheduled Feb. 5 before Judge Steve Moss.
Several citizens have questioned why KAA is spending taxpayer money to fight the city.
“We’re not fighting the city. We’re defending Kingman Airport Authority,” Burge said. “We’re just following the by-laws to operate our organization within the lease.
“As long as I’m in charge of running the organization and following the lease, I’m going to do what the by-laws say.”
KAA has never received a letter from the city spelling out what exactly it wants from the board, Burge noted. Condemnation is “way above and beyond” an acceptable offer, she added.
“We want the same thing as the city. We want a wonderful airport to provide opportunities for community members, employment and the opportunity to have an airport,” the board president said.
The KAA lease, which expires in 2028, sets forth conditions for termination, including failure by KAA to “perform, keep and observe” all terms of the lease.
Kingman Airport Users have been pushing for a management change at the airport for several years, pointing to deficiencies in maintenance and a general lack of concern about airport tenants.
Tenants left the airport because they couldn’t communicate with Executive Director Dave French and Economic Developer Bob Riley, and other companies have shown interest in coming to the airport, but backed out after meeting with them, said Tim Gerlach, president of the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.
“In each case, they did not feel wanted or could not come to agreement,” Gerlach said at a special Council meeting in October.
French resigned as executive director effective Dec. 31, but was hired back as a part-time consultant to assist with the litigation and airport leases as needed.
KAA has prepared paperwork to find a new executive director, but won’t begin the recruitment process while the lawsuits are being litigated, Burge said.
“We want the right person. I want somebody of high quality and has all the skills we need to continue the next 20 years in a leadership role,” she said.