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Hernando County, Corporate Jet Solutions lease dispute heads to court


Corporate Jet Solutions has acquired the old Brooksville Air Center on July 15, 2013.
Corporate Jet Solutions has acquired the old Brooksville Air Center on July 15, 2013.
Published Nov. 16, 2014

BROOKSVILLE — For several months last year, controversy swirled around the efforts of a Clearwater-based airplane maintenance company to move to Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and expand its operation.

The debate sparked a power struggle between Hernando County Administrator Len Sossamon, and the leadership of the airport and the Hernando County Aviation Authority.

The divisive issues ranged from the financial capabilities of the company, Corporate Jet Solutions, to a debate over whether the county was responsible for repairing its flawed building and site as a condition of the lease that the company ultimately signed in July 2013.

At the time, county officials agreed to fix some of the problems at the site, which previously had been known as the Brooksville Air Center. But since Corporate Jet Solutions owner Tony Dye and his father, Bradley, moved in, a host of new problems have arisen.

Last week, the ongoing dispute about who is responsible for fixing what led the Dyes to seek an injunction in Circuit Court to prevent eviction from the site. A day later, the county filed paperwork in court seeking to evict the company.

On Friday, Circuit Judge Donald Scaglione denied the injunction sought by Corporate Jet Solutions and canceled a hearing scheduled on the issue, making it possible for the company to make its arguments about the county's responsibilities for the flawed facilities through the county's eviction lawsuit.

The paper trail of legal action reveals that Corporate Jet Solutions officials have discovered several serious problems with their site, including substandard wiring, buildings not grounded to minimize danger from lightning, a fuel tank that doesn't measure up to the county's airport standards and a hangar with a smaller entry door than the one described in the county's advertisement seeking someone to lease the site.

The wiring and grounding problems were discovered in October when a lightning strike immobilized the company's electric gate, telephone system and other electronics.

"Defendant Hernando County performed the inspection necessary to obtain certificates of occupancy for the FBO (fixed-base operator) and the hangar,'' according to the Corporate Jet Solutions filing. "Therefore, defendant Hernando County knew or should have known about the faulty cabling, poor grounding and other latent defects at the property.''

The filing states that the county "willingly and knowingly permitted unlicensed, uninsured or unqualified lay persons to perform construction and electrical work,'' and the result created conditions that Corporate Jet Solutions officials were not aware of at the time they signed the lease.

On Oct. 7, County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes visited Corporate Jet Solutions, and, according to court papers, Bradley Dye believed that Dukes intended for the more than $30,000 it will cost the county to replace the undersized fuel tank to be deducted from the company's lease payments.

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"As to the damages of the lightning strike, the estimate cost to repair the county's telephone system and other service equipment and to correct the defective grounding exceeds an additional $30,000,'' according to the court papers.

The representative of Corporate Jet Solutions also notes that, "as a showing of good faith and to refute any allegations that this petition for injunctive relief is being used as a tactic to delay the payment of rent,'' the company has put $32,864.16 in escrow.

In an email written to his son and a representative of his lawyer, Bradley Dye characterizes his meeting with Dukes by saying, "I am convinced that Mr. Dukes was truly sincere and was frustrated to find that these problems have lingered since our leases were signed in July 2013. Mr. Dukes assured me that all of these issues would be completed by Nov. 4, 2014. . . .

"He was appreciative that the matters were handled away from the media, as I told him that going public would only hurt us both.''

In the county's eviction complaint, deputy County Attorney Jon Jouben notes that Corporate Jet Solutions has not paid its rent since the beginning of August. Earlier this month, airport manager Kevin Daugherty put the company on notice that it owed $32,864.16 for its leases, and to pay up or face eviction.

Corporate Jet Solutions officials met last week with county officials to try to work out a compromise but several hours later filed paperwork seeking the injunction.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at bbehrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

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