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The long-hanging Paul Jensen vs. City of Madras case has thankfully come to a close.

History will be right to view it, at its core, as a bad move by the city of Madras, a misplay by former city administrator Mike Morgan and the sitting council back in 2006. Whatever the problems the city had with Jensen, whatever the issues, whatever its divergent views of what should be at the airport, the city should have addressed them in a different manner attempting to force Jensen out by unilaterally trying to end his business lease.

As it was essentially immediately in litigation, Morgan never elaborated publicly on the city’s motivation. He did say that the Federal Aviation Administration was trying to get the city to modify its airport business leases. The city also stated that Jensen defaulted on his lease by missing some payments. Jensen, though, had made arrangements to skip a few payments during the off season (he operated a crop dusting business), and make them up in the busy season — an arrangement the city and he had used in prior years.

It was obvious that the city was using the missed payments as an excuse to expel Jensen. Other reasons are generally left to speculation. Jensen had held the lease since 1978. It wasn’t until 2006 that the city tried to kick him out.

Jensen challenged the eviction in court, and the court found in his favor. Early in proceedings it became known that the lease contract between Jensen and the city (in hindsight, poorly written by the city’s legal representation at the time) essentially gave Jensen all the power on whether to renew or not. That finding took a huge bite out of the city’s chance at court victory. Not only was it determined that Jensen was not in arrears on his lease, the court found that the lease total should revert back to what it was originally, $75 per month.

But appeals and court inactivity drug this case on, further draining Jensen’s pocketbook. When it was determined that the city had no insurance to address contract nonperformance, it became clear that the city itself, not an insurance company, was on the hook for the eventual payout.

In July, Jensen and the city mediated the situation and an amount was agreed upon. The amount was confidential, but it wasn’t difficult to piece together the totals when the city had to make public bookkeeping moves designed to free up funds for “litigation purposes.”

Jensen originally filed suit for $4 million, and he has lost hundreds of thousands in revenue from being out of business for seven years. So, he probably isn’t overjoyed with the amount. While “it could have been much worse” is likely a common opinion among the current City Council, having to pay out $175,000 in an era when police are being laid off and departments shrunk due to lack of revenue is not a cause to celebrate either.

It’s pretty clear that both sides came out losers by the decision to expel Jensen and try to end his lease back in 2006.

During the litigation years, Jensen made no bones about his bad attitude toward Morgan and the city, and it was hard to blame him. Plus, he made no bones about expressing his opinions about the city, and how it treated business, to those who would ask. Jensen told the Pioneer that he was very often asked his opinion by people considering locating a business in town, and that he would be up front with his negative views.

How much Jensen’s words, or the case in general, negatively impacted business development in Madras over the past few years is conjecture. But, no doubt, the situation in total didn’t help the town’s business development.

All in all, the best thing about the July agreement is that it puts the acrimonious event in the rear view mirror. Current city management and the council did well in concluding the situation — a sad episode that should not have ever happened.

Contract Publishing

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