Friday, July 28, 2017

FAA Dismisses Signature Santa Ana FBO Lease Complaint

Signature Flight Support expressed disappointment in the U.S. FAA’s decision to dismiss its Part 16 complaint over the ending of its leasehold at John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Santa Ana, California, but vowed to continue pursing all legal options to regain its position as an FBO provider on the airport.

Signature filed the complaint to the FAA earlier this year, alleging that the Orange County Board of Supervisors had violated Grant Assurance 22 regarding economic nondiscrimination. It argued that the county had discriminated against Signature by awarding a lease that it had held for two decades at SNA to ACI Jet. Signature said the request for qualification process used was discriminatory and that the county failed to negotiate renewal in good faith.

But in a July 21 determination, the FAA disagreed that the county had violated its grant assurances, saying, “Grant Assurance 22 does not require that an airport adhere to any particular methodology for letting or assigning leases. Discretion is left to the airport sponsor using practices that support its individual needs.”

The agency added it does not arbitrate lease agreements through Part 16, nor does it enforce lease terms through that complaint process. Rather, Part 16 is aimed at contracts between the federal government and airport sponsors.

“Signature Flight Support is disappointed by the decision,” the company said in a statement. “We continue to steadfastly stand by our position that the 2016 SNA RFP process was flawed, and did not provide a level playing field for those who participated; ultimately penalizing Signature, the airport’s customers and constituents.”

Signature ended its 20-year tenure at SNA on March 31 after the Orange County board of supervisors in late February reaffirmed its decision to award leaseholds for the two FBOs at SNA to Atlantic Aviation and ACI Jet. The board had cited pricing concerns and a desire for a more local company in its decision to switch vendors. Signature, however, accused the board of illegal and unfair bidding processes.

Signature said it was nearly complete on a contract extension when a third party expressed an interest in becoming an interim FBO provider. The county then issued an RFQ, and during the initial evaluations, Signature ended up as the top ranked qualifier, the company noted. However, the county chose to award the leasehold to a lesser-ranked bidder that did not, at the time, provide the requisite audited financial statements.

Orange County, however, argued that it used a “deliberative, thoughtful and transparent process” and charged that Signature wanted to reverse the leasing process to continue its “anti-competitive position and excessive pricing.”

“While others may have made a different decision than the board,” the FAA said in response to the arguments, “we find nothing in the procedures followed by the board or its ultimate decision that violates Grant Assurance 22.”

The FAA added that airport sponsors “have a right and responsibility to consider pricing in FBO selection.” Signature has argued that the pricing picture presented by the county did not take into account its full approach to pricing.

(Kerry Lynch - AINOnline News)

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