A Butler County Pleas Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit in which the county’s fired Butler County Regional Airport manager sought damages and to return to his position.
Ron Davis sued the county seeking his $93,710 job back and damages, including emotional distress, punitive and more. Davis’ attorney, George Reul, said the decision by Judge Keith Spaeth will not be appealed.
“He is not pursuing an appeal because he cannot afford to incur additional attorneys’ fees for the appeal,” Reul said. “He continues to feel strongly about the merits of his case, as do I.”
Davis sued the county in April, saying he was terminated — a firing he claimed violated Ohio public policy — because he complained about alleged Federal Aviation Administration rules violations. He said the county was impermissibly allowing Sheriff Richard Jones to use a warehouse on airport property rent-free, among other financial issues at the airport.
“The court has spoken to the issue, it was obviously an ill-founded suit in the first place and I appreciate the fact this case is now in the rear view mirror,” said Butler County Prosecutor Mike Gmoser.
Davis also filed a complaint with the FAA, and that investigation is still pending.
When they terminated Davis, county officials said it was a financial decision. At every budget hearing with Davis for several years, the commissioners showed frustration that Davis wasn’t able to make the airport financially viable. Former County Administrator Charlie Young told the Journal-News when the 2018 tax budgets came, they knew they could no longer sustain Davis’ position. With benefits the total general fund outlay was $110,310.
“There has been a continuing effort to meet our budget goals, and we have come to the conclusion we cannot meet our budget goals with the expense we’ve had of the administrator’s position,” Young said at the time. “We just don’t have the funding for that position at the level we’ve been paying.”
Young said taxpayer-backed general fund monies bailed the airport out at a cost of $40,000 to $50,000 annually, up to as much as $100,000. That didn’t even include the $155,000 in debt payments every year.
Without Davis on the payroll — newly named Acting County Administrator David Fehr has been running the development department and the airport — Fehr projected a budget surplus of $67,195 in 2018 and $71,487 in 2019.
Commissioner Don Dixon said he expects the county to be exonerated by the FAA.
“We never felt the county had done anything inappropriate anyway,” Dixon said.
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