Start also alleges the city failed to follow through on its property improvement obligations in the 20-year lease. After leadership changed, the city began plotting to remove Start from the airport and developed a new Master Plan that did not include Start, the lawsuit says.
Start alleges the city failed to honor its lease and is trying to force Start off the airport with unreasonable new demands.
The company is seeking $75,000 or more in compensatory damages, among other requests.
Middletown City Manager Jim Palenick declined comment. Eisenbraun also declined comment, and Dickten could not be reached.
Middletown police investigated claims of a data breach of Start servers after Start officials filed a complaint in the fall. Because current and former city employees were allegedly involved, police requested the internal investigation be reviewed by Steve Runge, Franklin city prosecutor. That review is ongoing.
For the past few years, the city and Start Skydiving have been embroiled in a dispute concerning issues with the hangar lease and the city’s move of the skydiving landing zone at the airport in May.
Since then, Start Skydiving has made a number of 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. Start also served as the city airport’s operator until Dec. 31, 2019, when the city non-renewed the contract.
John Hart II, co-owner of Start Skydiving, said the new drop zone was unsafe. He has also threatened to move the business to a new location.
In the landing zone move, there was 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 skydivers, to land between their hangar and taxiway.
Since Palenick arrived in July, he and Start Skydiving have been trying to resolve the hangar dispute and other issues raised by Start. There has been no resolution.