Another aviation school lands in trouble over insurance

Ormond Beach city filed a court injunction late Friday to stop an aviation school at the municipal airport from flying planes because it’s operating without liability insurance.

Adrian Thompson, owner of Euro American School of Aviation (formerly Ormond Beach Aviation), earlier this week received a notice — the second since January — that his business was in violation of city ordinances, warning that if the matter went unresolved a court order would be sought to ground his planes.

In that letter, Ann-Margret Emery, deputy city attorney, quoted the Ormond Beach ordinance that requires: “All commercial operations shall protect the city and the general public, customers, and clients of such operations, from any and all lawful damages, claims or liability” by having the necessary insurance.

She added that the flight school was first notified Jan. 22 about past-due rent and the expiration of liability insurance at its “fuel farm.”

“It has since been determined that your business operation, flight school, located at the airport is operating without any liability insurance in violation of the law,” Emery wrote in her March 3 letter.

Thompson, a longtime political activist in the city, was implicated by the State Attorney’s Office last year as having a role in an attempt to smear Mayor Fred Costello.

In an e-mail Friday, Thompson said he was being singled out by an “arbitrary action” aimed at closing his business.

Emery said Friday the city sees the matter with Thompson as a landlord-tenant issue, wanting to “make sure if something happens (an accident), there’s coverage.”

An employee at Thompson’s school Friday said the planes are still flying.

The FAA doesn’t require insurance, and Emery said, in general, there’s no way to know what planes are covered when they fly in and out of town. But she said the city holds to a “higher standard” for flight schools based at the municipal airport.

Emery said the city is not more legally vulnerable because Thompson’s school doesn’t have comprehensive general liability insurance.

“The existence of the ordinance doesn’t shift the liability. This won’t increase our liability as owners of the airport,” she said. “We’re trying to get them to get the insurance. If it goes to court, we want the judge to force them to get the insurance. Either get the insurance or don’t continue. But our ultimate goal is not to close a business.”

Thompson said the city initially gave him 60 days from Jan. 22 to show proof of insurance, or face termination of his lease. He said he was “diligently working” to accomplish that.

But Thompson said the action against him, the motive, involved the city’s “real, personal and discriminatory agenda in this matter” to close his business.

He added: “We are using our best efforts and endeavors to cure this issue, but the arbitrary and summary action of the city in withdrawing their pre-disclosed 60-day compliance requirement without notice, and the accompanying threat of court action to secure the city’s unreasonable position is unacceptable in every regard and speaks volumes as to the real intent of the city.”

Last November, state prosecutors cleared Mayor Costello of all allegations of abuse by his adopted daughter and found she sought the help of two of her father’s political rivals to smear his reputation. One was Thompson.

The state prosecutor’s report said Thompson “had sent a pilot to North Carolina to bring Angela Cavanaugh to Florida to make allegations of sexual abuse against her father.” No charges were filed against Thompson.

Thompson is scheduled for trial March 15 in a criminal case in Volusia County filed last year. He faces a charge of misdemeanor battery leveled by a former female employee who was 21 years old.

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