By Cameron Rasmusson
Bonner County officials declared victory this week in a November court ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals against SilverWing.
The ruling awards the county nearly $800,000 in attorney fees and other legal costs. According to County Commissioner Dan McDonald, the county avoided publicizing the ruling until it had time to confer with counsel.
“This … confirms that a federally-regulated airport cannot be held liable for actions taken to achieve compliance with federal law,” said Paul Fraidenburgh, the attorney who argued the case on behalf of the county.
It is the latest development in the lengthy court battle, in which SilverWing sued the county for allegedly violating a through-the-fence agreement at Sandpoint Airport. The broken agreement was the result of county actions in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration regulations.
The victory in federal court follows a defeat in state court, where a jury awarded SilverWing $250,000 plus $764,000 in legal fees, according to SilverWing spokesperson Michael Mileski.
McDonald argues that the jury ruling would have been different if the judge had allowed the open meeting statute, which maintains that no formal agreement can be reached without a published agenda and quorum, to be read to the jury. He hopes the Idaho Supreme Court will reach a more favorable ruling when they consider the county’s appeals. Oral arguments in the case begin this summer, with a decision expected by November.