OPA-LOCKA — Opa-Locka Flightline narrowly avoided an eviction this week, obtaining a court order in a Miami-Dade courtroom that prevented the business from being forced out of its headquarters.
AA Acquisitions, LLC served a 24-hour notice of eviction on Tuesday, near the end of the business day.
Flightline Partner Anthony Robinson and famed attorney Willie Gary spent much of Wednesday morning trying to block the eviction.
Miami-Dade County and AA Acquisitions sought to evict Flightline from its building at the Opa-locka Executive Airport on grounds that the company has refused to negotiate a new lease in good faith.
Flightline officials say the county and its lease-holding agent, AA Acquisitions, have refused to negotiate in good faith.
The Miami-Dade Aviation Department did not immediately return calls about the eviction order on Wednesday.
“We were able to stay the eviction, primarily on the merits of the case,” Robinson said. “It is clear that county is eager to remove us.”
Flightline began fighting the eviction order two weeks ago, when Gary and his staff filed an appeal of the order. The company, however, was still able to file the eviction.
The original eviction order was stayed Wednesday pending a review by Circuit Court Judge Jerald Bagley.
“The county’s hands are dirty in this,’’ Robinson said. “They have operated in bad faith throughout this process. They never intended to fulfill the original agreement.’’
Robinson supports his argument by noting that Flightline’s competition – larger, white-owned companies – were granted leases to build on the airport’s air fields, while his company was told that the county would not grant a new lease.
In order to get a long-term lease to build more facilities that will allow Flightline to grow, the county has said the company would have to negotiate with its competitor, AA Acquisitions.
AA Acquisitions is also a lease holder at the airport, and manages the smaller leaseholders.
Flightline has threatened a billion-dollar lawsuit against the Miami-Dade Aviation Department and AA Acquisitions, alleging breach of contract and racial discrimination.
On June 10, Willie Gary and members of the clergy held a press conference aimed at denouncing the airport’s operating entities for initiating the eviction of Opa-Locka Flightline.
The county has denied any racial discrimination. The Miami-Dade Aviation Department has said it did all it could to negotiate a new lease with Flightline.
Founded in 2004, Flightline provides jet fuel, concierge services, catering, ground transportation, hotel and dinner reservations, among other services, for private jet crews and passengers according to its Web site. IBM and Sears executives have utilized the company, as well as Bishop Eddie Long, Tom Joyner, Harrison Ford, Enrique Iglesias, Britney Spears and Lil’ Jon.
According to Miguel Southwell, Miami-Dade’s deputy aviation director, in 1998 MDAD signed a contract to allow Opa-locka Aviation Group (OAG) to develop 240 acres at the airport.
But by 2005, OAG had failed to meet benchmarks for building up infrastructure and facilities. MDAD sought to void the contract.
One OAG lawyer, Milton Ferrell, saw an opportunity. Ferrell, now deceased, joined with developer Michael Adler and Leonard Abess, former CEO of City National Bank of Florida, to form AA Acquisitions. They bought OAG’s lease for $19 million, according to the county.
AA Acquisitions then assumed management of the remaining, smaller leaseholders at the airport in March of 2007.
Since then, the number of tenants at the airport – some of whom had been there for more than 20 years—has plummeted.
Bruce Rubin, spokesperson for AA Acquisitions, said last month that for two years, AA Acquisitions has sought to establish a lease, but Flightline refused to negotiate in good faith.
But at the same time negotiations with AA Acquisitions were being finalized with the Miami-Dade Aviation Department, MDAD was also working on a contract with Flightline.
Flightline has a 5-year temporary lease, but was seeking a long-term, 30-year development lease on 15 acres of vacant land to build a new passenger terminal and a 50,000 square foot aircraft storage and maintenance hangar. Flightline officials say that once AA Acquisitions assumed management of the airport, Miami-Dade County strung Flightline along and would not grant a lease upon the promised terms.
Flightline says it began withholding rent on the proposed 15-acre development site because Miami-Dade County transferred the land to AA Acquisitions, and then told Flightline that it would need to negotiate a new development lease with AA at much higher rates.
Photo by Elgin Jones/SFT Staff. Anthony C. Robinson