Jet center challenges Montrose County on records

From the Montrose Daily Press:  By Katharhynn Heidelberg Daily Press Senior Writer

Calling “inconceivable” Montrose County’s position on records related to a 2013 request for proposals process, Jet Center Partners on Thursday took legal action.

The company wants the courts to order the release of certain records related to the process and also to find that the county violated the Colorado Open Records Act and Colorado Open Meetings Law; therefore, its decision to issue the RFP is null and void.

The county is not making a statement on the filing at this time, spokeswoman Katie Yergensen said.

The county last August announced a request for proposals, or RFP, process for a possible second fixed-base operator at Montrose Regional Airport.

Jet Center Partners does business as Black Canyon Jet Center, the current fixed-base operator, or FBO, under a multi-year contract.

An FBO serves general aviation, primarily through fuel sales.

JCP and the county alike were parties in bruising litigation brought by JetAway Aviation, which had sought the FBO contract ultimately awarded to JCP.

Montrose County officials said last summer they had been approached by at least one operator who was interested in a possible second FBO, so a decision was made to release an RFP.

After the RFP closed, however, the county declined to release the names of those who submitted proposals. It cited its procurement policy, which states that proposers’ names won’t be made public until the evaluation process is complete or until the county manager or assistant county manager provides written authorization.

The Daily Press was able to determine that Cutter Aviation is one of the companies that submitted an RFP.

Jet Center Partners in December filed public records requests with the Montrose County Clerk and Recorder.

According to that request, the company wants to see, not just the names of RFP respondents, but the proposals and all related email, correspondence, notes and documents that might have occurred between county officials or employees and Cutter Aviation, JetAway principal Steve Stuhmer, JetAway backers Michael and Paul Girdner or Montrose Economic Development Corp.

Cutter in 2012 approached the county with a request to manage a second FBO on behalf of JetAway; the county balked because of the ongoing legal battle with JetAway and also said its RFP process would have to be followed before there could be a second FBO.

JetAway had offered to drop some of its litigation if Cutter was allowed to manage a second FBO.

Jet Center Partners’ December records request further seeks supporting information about airport traffic volume, the Airport Layout Plan and documentation that relates to the work of staffers who were called upon to review FBO proposals and report back to commissioners.

The review committee includes County Manager Rick Eckert, Aviation Director Lloyd Arnold, Lanny Paulson, county budget manager and now-fleet manager Dave Laursen, who in 2011 participated in a closed-door meeting between Michael Girdner and the former county manager.  Laursen at the time said he was trying to facilitate discussion and clarify information. He was not employed by the county at that time.

The clerk’s Dec. 24, 2013 response to JCP’s request was that such records as could be released had been released and some of those sought are not “public at this time,” while still other records sought did not exist.

The latter position is “simply irreconcilable with Colorado’s Open Records Act,” JCP’s attorney Steven Zansberg stated in a Monday letter.

“The language of the RFP itself concedes that all proposal information other than confidential financial or secret trade information specifically identified as such by the proposer is subject to the Colorado Open Records Act.”

Zansberg’s firm represents Colorado Press Association members, including the Daily Press, on public records matters. Prior to being retained by
JCP, Zansberg helped the Daily Press submit its own records requests for information related to the RFP. The Daily Press is not, however, a party to JCP’s lawsuit.

Zansberg in his Monday letter also labeled as “inconceivable” the county’s assertions that “no such county records” exist.

“Either the county is sorely mistaken about what constitutes a public record under the CORA and/or it may be harboring a misconception
of which ‘writings’ that are within (its) possession … qualify as county records,” he said.

The letter advises the county that JCP will be seeking court orders on its requests. The company made the move on Thursday.

JCP wants the court to order county officials to demonstrate why the records shouldn’t be made available.

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