In July 2016, David Tidwell of Transformation Aviation Services went before the County Commission to give an update on business operations since establishing an incentives agreement with the county in 2015. He delivered an optimistic report, mentioning that he recently received letters of intent from a large international firm.
The county waived a $377,000 leasing fee for an airport property (15421 Technology Drive) that formerly was occupied by the Brooksville Air Center then Corporate Jet Solutions. The agreement required Tidwell to hire 125 employees within three years. Transformation Aviation Services is a jet retrofitting company, established in 2014 with operations based out of Lakeland, Fla.
The incentives agreement came under fire from airport leaseholder Dave Lemon. Lemon stated, “The current lease that you’re offering Mr. Tidwell abolishes the alternative fuel after hours self service fuel station at the Brooksville Air Center. The only alternative Fixed Base Operator is the Brooksville Air Center and they’ve abolished that as well, no FBO… Why are you not protecting the aviation users at the airport by preserving the fuel and preserving an alternative FBO option to compete with American Aviation? The fuel went down a dollar a gallon the minute Corporate Jet Solutions went in business. This whole story, all of these praises, is deja vu of the June 2008 discussion about opening the Brooksville Air Center, the 2012 discussions of Corporate Jet Solutions so it will be interesting to see if this all comes to pass.”
In 2015, Valerie Pianta, the county’s Economic Development Manager, explained in regards to the TAS incentive project, “They’ve committed to 12 jobs in year 1, 30 jobs in year 2, and 83 jobs in year 3… They have to maintain those jobs for year 4 and 5 and provide us with proof of job creation and maintenance.” She also explained that if the jobs are not created per the contract they will owe them back the lease.
At the July 2016 meeting, Pianta reported to the commission that Tidwell had hired 9 out of 12 employees during year 1 which she described as “in compliance.” Pianta also stated that Tidwell would be providing documentation of employee salaries to the county.
However according to a lawsuit filed in January 2017, that documentation was never provided and on July 27 the county gave TAS 30 days notice to cure the breach of contract. In September of 2016, the county sent TAS a notice to cure a breach of contract relating to the lack of liability insurance documentation within 30 days. TAS did not comply with either notices to cure.
The annual lease for the property was $125,676.00 to be paid monthly. As part of the incentive agreement, the county would assume the monthly payments for TAS for a period of three years. It would have to be paid back in full for any breach of contract.
The lawsuit states, “On November 15, 2016, the County sent an invoice to TAS in the amount of $115,203.00 for the rental payments that the County had made to the Airport on TAS’s behalf up to that date.” TAS was not in compliance with neither the lease nor the incentives agreement, making the incentives agreement void.
In December 2016, TAS vacated the property.
The county filed a lawsuit against TAS for “CONTRACT AND INDEBTEDNESS” on January 18, 2017. The lawsuit went uncontested and Judge Peter Brigham ruled in favor of the county.
“FINAL JUDGMENT - THAT PLNTF TO RECOVER FROM DEF, THE SUM OF $437,474.94, WITH PREJUDGMENT INTEREST IN THE AMOUNT OF $7,738.00, MAKING A TOTAL OF $445,212.94, THAT SHALL BEAR INTEREST AT THE LEGAL RATE OF 5.05% PER ANNUM, FOR WHICH SUM LET EXECUTION ISSUE FORTHWITH - DTD 042617 ”
In May 2016, TAS agreed to gut the interior of a Bombardier Challenger CL600 Aircraft for a flat fee of $6,475 for Gulfview Aviation. Gulfview ended up having to sue TAS in a “MOTION FOR DEFAULT AGAINST TRANSFORMATION AVIATION SERVICES LLC.”
While TAS completed the gutting of the aircraft, the two companies attempted to negotiate a contract for TAS to handle refurbishing the interior as well, but they were unable to agree on terms.
Gulfview paid the invoice in full on June 20, 2016 covering the work done to gut the aircraft. In August of 2016, Gulfview instructed TAS to “only perform the work that had been previously agreed upon and paid for.”
Mid-August, TAS sent Gulfview a second invoice for an amount of $41,321.75 plus tax for “an alleged 386 hours of work performed at the rate of $125 per hour.”
The second invoice included 240 hours for the removal of the plane’s interior. Sal Disi, with Gulfview Aviation states in lawsuit documents that the remainder of the hours “for time ostensibly expended by TAS, is for work which was never authorized or agreed upon.” Morisi continues, “More importantly, the work TAS represents was performed was never attempted or completed.”
TAS asserted a possessory lien on the aircraft before Gulfview filed the lawsuit and maintained it in their hangar. Gulfview ultimately filed the lawsuit for the default declaratory judgment. They had to post bond with the clerk’s office of $44,921.98 to get the plane back.
In his declaratory judgement, Judge Donald Scaglione determined that Gulfview Aviation did in fact pay in full for the work completed on the aircraft and they have a right to recoup the $44,214.27 they bonded with the clerk of court.
After TAS vacated 15421 Technology Drive, interested parties began to work with the county in order to lease the space.
The county approved a lease agreement with Global Jet Care for 15421 Technology Drive at their meeting May 23, 2017. However two companies not chosen for the lease put the county on notice that they will be legally challenging the lease agreement. Jet Concepts contends that public comment should have been allowed at the May 23 meeting and their hearing should have been conducted before Global Jet Care’s since they submitted their bid first. Jet ICU, who had bids prepared, also contends that they were denied a hearing.