Settlement reached between Middletown, business owner in airport meetings lawsuit

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Start Skydiving back open in Middletown

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A lawsuit filed by a co-owner of Start Skydiving against each member of the Middletown Airport Commission alleging they failed to keep accurate minutes from several meetings as well as meeting without a quorum reached a negotiated settlement.

Butler County Common Pleas Judge Charles Pater filed the judgment entry on Oct. 19 granting the state of Ohio and John P. Hart II a declaratory judgment against Middletown Airport Commission members in their official capacity for violating Ohio’s Open Meetings Act commonly known as the “Sunshine Law”.

ExploreMiddletown skydiving business owner sues airport commission members

The lawsuit was filed June 23 against Airport Commission members Nicholas Brown, John Langhorne, Thomas Rudolf, Thomas Wortley, Kurt Yearout, Thomas Anderson, and Matt King, for failure to promptly prepare airport commission meeting minutes for meetings held August 2019, September 2019, October 2019, January 2020, February 2020, and March 2020.

Hart II also claimed following the April 2020 meeting of the Middletown Airport Commission, a letter purporting to be a recommendation of the commission, was presented to the Middletown City Council. He claimed the letter was not voted on by the commission prior to it being presented to council on May 5 concerning the relocation of skydiving landing zones.

ExploreFAA suggests compromise for skydiving landing zone at Middletown Regional Airport

The court ordered commission members to pay a $500 civil forfeiture to Hart II and pay $2,500 for his attorney fees. The commission members were also ordered to follow the provisions requiring the preparation, filing and maintaining their meeting minutes.

In a text, Hart II said he settled his lawsuit with the airport commission and that “the airport commission did not dispute the claims I made.”

He said he will be donating the financial penalty imposed by the court against the airport commission to the Ohio Balloon Challenge to support the 2021 event.

ExploreLanding zone dispute between Middletown, Start Skydiving continues with multiple letters

For the past few years, the city and Start Skydiving have been embroiled in a dispute concerning issues with their hangar lease and most recently in May when the city moved the parachute landing zone. Since then Start Skydiving has made allegations against the city in its efforts to operate the airport. The dispute delayed the city’s efforts to complete the Airport’s Master Plan and Layout Plan because the parachute landing zone issue was not resolved.

Hart II said the new drop zone was unsafe and would not expose any skydivers to land in that area. He has also threatened to move the business to a new location.

City Manager Jim Palenick said he and Start Skydiving are working out the issues as the city completes its airport master plan and airport layout plan.

ExploreMiddletown approves disputed move of airport’s skydiving landing zone

Part of the issue was the lack of a coordinated position and conflict between the FAA’s Flight Standards Office and Airport District Office which saw the controversy between the city and Start from different perspectives.

The FAA guidance announced a compromise Aug. 21 placing the landing zone in the same area that the city decided in May but allowed those with a “D” license or the very experienced skydiver, to land between their hangar and taxiway.

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