BROOKSVILLE — A judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit against the former manager of Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport, but it's likely not the last that Don Silvernell has heard from his accuser.
Robert Rey and his airplane management business, Jet Concepts Inc., claimed that in December 2012, Silvernell told Hernando County resident Paul Douglas that Rey was "a crook, that he doesn't pay his bills and that he is financially incompetent,'' according to the lawsuit filed in August. Douglas at the time was considering leasing the property of a defunct air center at the airport.
Hernando Circuit Judge Lisa Herndon heard arguments during a Nov. 5 hearing. In an order signed Nov. 19, Herndon wrote that Rey failed to show that Silvernell made the alleged statements outside of his official duties as airport manager. Florida law protects public officials acting in an official capacity from being held personally liable for statements or actions unless the plaintiff can show the official acted "in bad faith, with malicious purposes or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety or property." Rey's complaint failed to do that, Herndon wrote.
Finally, the judge ruled, the complaint "fails to allege with specificity the ultimate facts necessary to state causes of action for defamation and tortious interference with a business relationship."
Rey alleged that Silvernell told representatives of the Jet ICU air ambulance company that "they should stop doing business with Rey and Jet Concepts because Rey and Jet Concepts were not authorized to operate at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport," the complaint said. Rey claimed that Silvernell told others that their businesses would not be supported by the management and staff of the airport if they conducted business with Rey or his company.
Because of Silvernell's interference, Rey alleged, Jet ICU, where he currently houses his clients' aircraft, has been reluctant to participate in joint projects, and other businesses and individuals have been reluctant to maintain business relationships with him.
Rey has 30 days from the date of Herndon's order to file an amended complaint. His attorney, David Stamps, told the Times in an email that he plans to do so.