Five Lakes Aviation files suit

FAIRMONT – Five Lakes Aviation, the airport management firm whose contract was terminated in September by Fairmont City Council, is suing the city for damages in excess of $50,000.

A complaint, filed in Martin County District Court in November, slipped through quietly without notice. City administrator Mike Humpal says the City Council is aware of the suit but no public mention has been made of the matter.

The city is insured by the League of Minnesota Cities, which has assigned Jason Kuboushek of Bloomington to represent the defendant in the civil lawsuit.

“They basically told us not to talk about it at all,” said Humpal, who referred all questions to Kuboushek.

The council began discussing the airport management in April 2013, when the city administrator compiled a list of concerns about the facility. According to city staff, the problems were not resolved, resulting in the council’s decision in July to terminate its contract with Five Lakes Aviation, effective Sept. 30.

The plaintiff, represented by Steven Sunde of St. James, is claiming “breach of contract and damages.”

As a result of the breach of contract, the complaint reads, the plaintiff “has been forced out of business and [has] and will, in the future, incur damages for lost income, lost business opportunities, losses because of a forced sale of business assets and other damages, all in excess of … $50,000.”

According to information presented by the plaintiff in the complaint: Five Lakes Aviation has had a contract with the city for the past 16 years to manage and operate Fairmont Municipal Airport. The contract was renewed in five-year increments, with the most recent renewal on Oct. 1, 2012.

The city’s decision to renew the contract in 2012 contradicts the city’s claim that the basis for termination existed for a significant period of time, according to the complaint.

The civil suit’s case file also notes that Five Lakes Aviation disagreed with the corrective measures the city requested last spring, “and in spite of the fact the contracts between the parties had just recently been renewed without complaint, the plaintiff put forth its best efforts to satisfy the defendant and cure any and all alleged complaints.”

According to the plaintiff, the city’s advisory board confirmed at its meeting in June that Five Lakes Aviation had complied with the city’s requests, but the council still voted in July to terminate the contract, effective Sept. 30.

The city’s conduct “was without factual basis, in violation of the terms and conditions of said contracts, contrary to the findings of the airport advisory board, and amounted to an unjustified breach of contract,” the complaint reads.

In response to the complaint, as filed in District Court, the city’s attorney argues the plaintiff should receive “nothing by its pretended claim for relief and this claim be dismissed together with costs, disbursements and such other relief as the Court deems just and equitable.”

Neither attorney was not available for comment Thursday afternoon.