Tuesday, May 22, 2018
News Roundup

Airplane manager gets license after pleading case to Hernando Aviation Authority

BROOKSVILLE — Pilot and airplane manager Robert Rey said he'd had enough with the delays.

So last week, even though he wasn't on the agenda, he took a seat at the table during the Hernando County Aviation Authority's monthly meeting to plead his case.

What erupted was a new barrage of criticism directed at Aviation Authority chairman Gary Schraut, who has been accused in another case of blocking a business from coming to the airport. Ultimately, a majority of the authority members split from Schraut and voted to help Rey.

They voted to allow airport manager Kevin Daugherty to issue Rey his license to operate as soon as his insurance paperwork clears the county's risk management and legal departments rather than wait another month for the next authority meeting.

Schraut and fellow member Derrill McAteer voted no.

Schraut said after the meeting he did not believe the authority had the information it needed to make that decision and, because of contradictions in Rey's statements in the past, he didn't feel comfortable simply trusting him at his word.

He said he could not provide details about the delays that Rey says he has faced because Rey has sued former airport manager Don Silvernell for slander and interfering with his business.

Rey and his company, Jet Concepts Inc., had been around Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport for years, working through existing businesses and providing whatever his clients needed to keep their airplanes maintained, fueled and staffed.

He managed the old Brooksville Air Center. But the owners of that business ran into financial problems, and Rey was evicted by the bank that took over. Along the way, Rey found himself at odds with Schraut, the authority and Silvernell over various rules at the airport.

After the eviction last year, he was told he needed to obtain a license in order to continue to do business at the airport.

Speaking to the authority last week, Rey called the process a "battle'' and explained that the airport had no form for an application, no set time lines or processes to get a license and no formal list of requirements — and that some of the requirements have changed.

Rey also noted and gave details about other businesses that provide services at the airport that have not been required to get licenses.

"I'm tired of the hurdles,'' he said. "I just want to work.''

County Commissioner Diane Rowden, the commission's airport liaison, told Schraut that she has seen emails back and forth about Rey's license and the delays with placing him on the agenda.

"I don't understand why this is not on the agenda,'' she said.

Schraut said the airport had just received his information.

But Rowden said that, given the previous delays, it would have been a "common courtesy" to have put the item on the agenda for discussion.

Rey praised Daugherty for trying to help him through the process, but noted that the delays and hurdles have continued.

Schraut said he could put Rey on the agenda for next month.

"This is ridiculous what you're putting this man through,'' said Paul Douglas, president of the local branch of the NAACP, who has been working with Rey.

Douglas said he believes the airport's actions toward them have been discriminatory because Rey is Hispanic and Douglas is African-American.

"I'm really appalled at the way Mr. Rey has been treated at this meeting,'' Rowden said.

She repeated her surprise that his issue had not been placed on the agenda and noted that the county needs to be encouraging business and job growth.

Schraut pointed out that Rey is suing the county.

"I've met the requirements,'' Rey said, noting that he had written his check for the permit and provided what was asked for on his insurance. "I'm here today with all the things I've been asked for. I'm here to work.''

He also said that the rules allow the airport manager to issue the permit.

John Scharch, a member of the county's Planning and Zoning Commission who attended Thursday's meeting, suggested that the manager issue a temporary permit.

"We don't have temporary permits,'' Schraut said.

Aviation Authority member Jeff West said that if Rey has met the requirements, and the insurance issues just need to be reviewed by risk management and the county attorney's office, why not issue the license contingent on a positive review.

"I second,'' said Aviation Authority member Morris Porton.

Greg LaMont joined them in a 3-2 vote approving the conditional license.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.

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