LOS ANGELES — Attorneys for Los Angeles and Ontario, Calif. have filed 400 pages of documents ahead of an Oct. 31 court hearing on Ontario's efforts to wrest its local airport from the control of Los Angeles.
Riverside County Superior Court Judge Gloria Trask could rule on a summary judgment motion Friday.
Ontario seeks to end the joint-powers agreement in which it ceded control of LA/Ontario International Airport to Los Angeles in 1985.
Los Angeles attorneys, who want the judge to throw out the lawsuit, argued in court documents that Ontario is long past the statute of limitations on the issue.
Ontario filed the lawsuit on June 3, 2013 after talks broke down between Los Angeles officials and Ontario over Ontario's efforts to regain control of the airport, also known by airport code ONT.
Officials in Ontario and around the Inland Empire region believe that Los Angeles and its Los Angeles World Airports enterprise have neglected the Ontario airport to focus on building traffic and revenue at Los Angeles International Airport.
Some Los Angeles city leaders have indicated support for return of the airport, but the process wasn't moving quickly enough for Ontario city leaders who are concerned about the rapid decline of business at their local airport.
"ONT has been neglected and mismanaged by Los Angeles, and specifically, LAWA and currently is in a downward economic spiral that will not stop unless local control of its operations is restored," Andre Cronthall and Scott Sveslosky, attorneys with Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, representing Ontario, argued in the complaint.
In court documents, Ontario argued that after traffic peaked at 7.2 million passengers in 2007, Los Angeles ceased "its best efforts to attract and obtain additional regular scheduled airline service for ONT" as required by two agreements. Passenger levels at ONT have dropped by 40.3% since 2007 to levels not seen since the early 1980's, according to the complaint.
The parties signed a JPA in 1967, followed by the acquisition agreement in 1985 that ceded control of the airport to Los Angeles World Airports, the city's airport bureau.
The court documents included a 238-page filing from ONT's attorneys with depositions from city officials who worked on the original agreements as well as depositions of current LAWA chief executive officer Gina Marie Lindsey and Michael Digirolamo, a former LAWA executive.
Digirolamo testified that LAWA's marketing efforts and interest in ONT decreased after Lindsey was appointed CEO in 2007. In her deposition, Lindsey attributed ONT's traffic decline to side-effects of the economic crisis.
Ontario's attorneys have argued in filings that LAWA and Lindsey decided to abandon the regionalization objective that has previously united the airports, in order to focus on growth at LAX.
In an email exchange included in court documents, Lindsey discounts regionalization calling it a flawed concept based on LAX being at 78.9 million annual passengers now and "that hasn't happened, not even close."
She added in the email "that it is a silly waste of time to put a definitive plan together when 78 MAP won't happen for 8-10 years and the aviation industry as well as the world economy is ever more dynamic."
Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer argued the depositions were irrelevant in court documents, because of the unambiguous terms of the JPA and acquisition agreement and uncontestable proof that they were approved by the Ontario City Council.
Ontario concedes that the material facts are undisputed, Feuer said, but "has chosen to litter the record with a vast array of "background" facts that Ontario admits are immaterial to the pending motions."
He urged the judge to not allow the volume of evidentiary materials to obscure the "undisputed facts."