Fired airport official sues to get job back, alleges retaliation, misuse of funds

Fired airport official sues to get job back, alleges retaliation, misuse of funds
Butler County Sheriff RIchard Jones at a press conference earlier this year. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)
Butler County Sheriff RIchard Jones at a press conference earlier this year. (FOX19 NOW/Jennifer Edwards Baker)

FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP, OH (FOX19) - The former longtime administrator of Butler County's airport is suing the county commissioners to try to get his job back, alleging wrongful termination and misuse of airport revenue and property.

Ron Davis contends in a lawsuit filed this week that county officials fired him last year after raised concerns over airport funds going into the county's general fund instead of being invested back into the airport, resulting in a more than $2 million budget airport deficit.

"Mr. Davis was really sort of dedicated to this job. He was really good at what he did and was really focused on making that airport a success," said one of his attorneys, George Reul Jr. with the downtown Cincinnati law firm Freking Myers & Reul.

But the airport has long had financial issues and struggled to balance its budget. Then Davis tangled with Sheriff Richard Jones. The sheriff wanted to store equipment from his agency in an airport warehouse in 2010.

Davis told the sheriff he had to ask approval of the Federal Aviation Administration first, according to the lawsuit. And the sheriff would have to pay fair market value to rent the space for non-aeronautical purposes because FAA grant funds were used to purchase the property.

One day in 2011, Davis drove past the warehouse . "Butler County Sheriff's Office Warehouse 13" read the sign outside, and it was full of equipment, the suit states.

Davis asked a deputy to have Jones call him and "told the deputy that he believed that the sheriff's use of the building without FAA approval and without paying fair market value rent was a violation of FAA regulations."

The county administrator told Davis the sheriff didn't want to be contacted directly by him. Davis was to go through commissioners to speak to Jones, the suit states.

In May 2017, the county informed Davis his $92,000 annual salary was proposed to be cut to $57,551 and his hours would drop from 40 to 25 for budgetary reasons, according to the suit.

Davis informed his new supervisor in writing later that month he felt the proposal to reduce his hours and salary was done to retaliate against him for expressing concerns regarding FAA regulation violations and misuse of airport funds.

On June 19, he was told by his supervisor the county commissioners were terminating his employment at the end of the month.

County Commissioners did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said he couldn't say much.

"I can't really respond to litigation in the news media. This will all be explained in the court. It appears to me that he's a disgruntled, ex-employee trying to grab more money."

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