Skip to main content

Hangar 6 owner files suit against commissioners, airport authority

By Caitlin Forsha
The Highland County Press

Less than three years after settling an ongoing delinquent tax issue, Hangar 6 owner George Matthews this month filed a civil lawsuit against the Highland County Board of Commissioners and Highland County Airport Authority, seeking “a full refund of all amounts paid.”

As previously reported, in June 2020, Highland County Treasurer Vickie Warnock filed action against Hangar 6, Inc. et al., seeking $28,092.88 in delinquent taxes since 2007 (payable in 2008) from the North Shore Drive business. The taxes were then paid in August 2020, and the case was dismissed.

In a lawsuit filed April 12 in Highland County Common Pleas Court, Hangar 6 raises issues with the April 5, 2001 lease agreement between Hangar 6 and the county and with the “years of harassment, assessments and coerced payments” Hangar 6 alleges the county has imposed.

Hangar 6 is being represented by Robert A. Herking, an attorney from Cincinnati. 

According to the complaint, the contract between the parties states that the county “shall pay, satisfy and discharge as they become due, all assessment, charges, mortgages, liens and taxes whatsoever which may exist or be payable for, or against, or in respect of the leased premises or any part thereof.” However, in 2009, Hangar 6 says they were “made aware” that they, not the county, are “the responsible party for the property taxes assessed.”

“[Hangar 6] has endured years of harassment, assessments and coerced payments to the County Commissioners and Airport Authority to ensure uninterrupted utilization of its property interest as stated in the Lease Agreement,” the complaint says. “Defendants have sent numerous correspondence over decades to [Hangar 6] instructing it to pay the assessed amount or risk foreclosure and eviction. Plaintiff has paid this amount and is entitled to a full refund of all amounts paid.” 

In addition, Hangar 6 is seeking “a declaratory judgment that Plaintiff is not responsible for the property tax amounts assessed;” “an injunction going forward to estop the County Commissioners and Airport Authority from further activity adverse to” their contract; and “recoupment of any and all monies paid over the years to prevent foreclosure and eviction.” 

Hangar 6 “seeks … damages against each Defendant in an amount in excess of $25,000, and in the alternative in excess of $25,000 jointly ands severally, plus costs, attorney fees and all other relief to which it may be entitled,” the complaint says.

The complaint lists four “causes of action” — injunction, fraud, unjust enrichment and breach of contract.

Hangar 6 argues that “failure to impose an injunction on the defendants would cause an irreparable harm if not issued.” The complaint further alleges that Hangar 6 has “suffered damages in an amount in excess of $25,000, plus attorney fees, costs and damages,” after making payments “over the life of the lease agreement.”

For unjust enrichment, the complaint says that “it would be unjust to allow” the county to “retain the benefit of” the payments made by Hangar 6 “without performing their obligations as spelled out in the lease agreement.” 

The complaint accuses the county of “breaching the lease agreement by failing to pay the property taxes as the terms of the lease require, and threatening foreclosure action against [Hangar 6] if it did not pay the property taxes.

“Under this pressure, [Hangar 6] paid the property taxes despite the lease agreement requiring [the county] to be responsible,” the complaint says. “As a result of the defendants’ breach, [Hangar 6] has suffered damages in an amount in excess of $25,000.”

Prior to back taxes being paid in 2020, the county had sought to collect taxes on the business since at least 2010. In a March 2010 letter, then-Highland County commissioners Shane Wilkin, Gary Heaton and Tom Horst wrote that "We cannot ask the taxpayers of Highland County to pay the taxes for [Hangar 6 owner George Matthews], nor was that agreed to in the lease."

Matthews' attorney at that time, Brian Sullivan, countered during a board of commissioners' meeting that month that: "Our positions are still somewhat the same. Is there any overture by the county other than those expressed in the letter? The general law is 'He who owns the land pays the taxes.' The county is the land owner."

Sullivan then referenced paragraph 25 of the lease between Matthews and the county, which states "Lessor [the county] shall pay, satisfy and discharge as they become due, all assessments, charges, mortgages, liens and taxes whatsoever which may exist or be payable for, or against, or in respect of the leased premises or any part thereof."

Former Highland County Prosecutor Jim Grandey responded, "There is no question the county has to pay tax on the land. {But} I don't know any provision in Ohio law that permits a county to pay taxes for a third party business which they have no interest in. We cannot pay taxes on something we don't own. It's not our name on the mortgage, it's Hangar 6."

"The only resolution I see is that Hangar 6 will pay the taxes in protest and we'll file an action in court," Sullivan said. "If we're right, we'll get our money back. If you're right, we won't. We have a written document."

Former commissioner Shane Wilkin replied, "For us to ask the taxpayers to subsidize a private business by picking up its taxes, I'm not comfortable with that. The county shouldn't be in the business of paying private citizens' taxes."


David A. Mayer (not verified)

24 April 2023

It is not unusual for the lessor, the county, to pay the taxes. Such is common in a commercial lease full service lease. If it were a NNN lease, the leesee would be liable for their prorata share of whatever is spelled out. Reading section 25 of the recorded lease, the lessor agreed to pay the taxes among other items. If the lessor is a government entity they can write any type of lease, unless barred by law. The taxpayers representatives who signed said lease with legal counsel, agreed to the terms. I see no problem. Favor of Hangar 6. Waste of taxpayers money to defend a black and white legal clause. Instrument 200500004591 Correct me where the rules change to suit the county.

Add new comment

This is not for publication.
This is not for publication.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
Article comments are not posted immediately to the Web site. Each submission must be approved by the Web site editor, who may edit content for appropriateness. There may be a delay of 24-48 hours for any submission while the web site editor reviews and approves it. Note: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number and email address is for our use only, and will not be attached to your comment.