OGDEN — A company that leases land at Ogden-Hinckley Airport has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that officials unconstitutionally barred an owner’s access to the company hangar, a dispute that appears to have stemmed from the ongoing conflict between the airport and some hangar owners.
BSJ Travel Inc. filed the case Monday in U.S. District Court in Salt Lake City, alleging that Ogden City retaliated against one of the litigants, BSJ Travel owner Doug Durbano, when he forfeited his security pass around September 10 disabled at the airport.
Durbano and several dozen other hangar owners sued the city last year over new airport management and development plans that included the city no longer automatically renewing leases. Under the new guidelines, airport officials began not renewing some long-standing hangar leases and demolishing some of the decades-old structures. The city said it needed to make better use of airport space to attract new businesses and increase the airport’s economic viability, but hangar owners argued the lease moves were illegal government expropriations of private property.
In July of this year, US District Judge David Barlow dismissed that lawsuit, saying the lease disputes were “garden diversity” contractual matters better dealt with in state district courts. Durbano and several hangar owners have appealed this decision to the US 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.
BSJ Travel’s complaint accuses city officials, including airport manager Bryant Garrett and district attorney Gary Williams, of allegedly using the airport’s security and access badge system for unauthorized purposes. The badge system was set up as part of the Transportation Security Administration’s protocols when commercial passenger flights operated at Ogden. TSA is no longer operating at the airport, according to the lawsuit, because airlines Allegiant and Avelo suspended their Ogden service last summer.
The lawsuit alleges that officers are using the badge system for purposes outside the purview of TSA operations, “including, and in particular, to punish, coerce or retaliate against its landlords for matters unrelated to security.” .
Durbano said that while his access was suspended, BSJ Travel Vice President Jared Brown’s badge was recently renewed. Durbano said in the lawsuit that Williams told him over the phone that the city expects Durbano to “comply with independent inspection requests” involving another hangar “remaining from a tenant who fled the airport of his own volition.” , after trying to get a security pass a year ago.
Garrett, who was contacted Thursday, declined to discuss the dispute because of the ongoing litigation, referring questions to Stephen Noel, an outside attorney who has defended the city in the civil suits.
Noel said he could not respond to the BSJ complaint in detail as he had just received it and was still reviewing the complaint, but he alluded to a pending inspection issue and said the BSJ Travel-Durbano matter would be forthcoming depending on the outcome could be moot.
However, the lawsuit states that Brown’s simple renewal of security badges compared to Durbano’s revealed an alleged unconstitutional denial of access to Durbano and possibly other litigants. The lawsuit states that Brown was told by officials that “BSJ is qualified to issue security badges under his lease and is otherwise fully compliant and does not appear to be on the ‘bad guy’ list.” Brown never sued Ogden, the lawsuit said.
Denying the badge “is tantamount to malice or malice or serves the purpose of hurting the plaintiff by displaying the unbridled power of the government bureaucracy,” the lawsuit states. Durbano said he lost access to aircraft, other equipment and related property in the BSJ hangar as a result.
The lawsuit asks the federal court for an urgent injunction against the city.
Durbano and about a dozen others of the more than 70 hangar owners involved in the 2021 lawsuit are participating in the appeal in the Denver court. But most other hangar owners and the Ogden Regional Airport Association have decided not to join the appeal, instead pursuing a state contract lawsuit, association president Ed McKenney said recently.