Gas station dispute is in judge’s hands

Airport Mobil owner seeks injunction to block contract award to Depot Corner

Airport Mobil owner Michael Rotondo is taking the M.V. Airport Commission to court. —Stacey Rupolo

A Dukes County Superior Court judge will decide within the next two weeks whether to block a contract awarded by the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commissioners to Louis Paciello to run the gas station at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Business Park. The award will allow Mr. Paciello to take over the Airport Mobil gas station and operate it under lease from the airport for 20 years. Michael Rotondo has operated the gas station on the leased site for the past 20 years.

During a court hearing Tuesday morning, Judge Mitchell Kaplan heard arguments from Michael Mahoney, an attorney for Mr. Rotondo, the owner of Airport Mobil. He called the rental-contract bid process a “sham,” and asked the court to enjoin the Airport Commission from making the contract award. Mr. Paciello owns two other Island gas stations in Edgartown under the name Depot Corner. He outbid Mr. Rotondo by a significant amount, according to counsel for the airport.

Mr. Mahoney said that the bids were not scored properly by members of the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission (MVAC), and that the commission did not follow the criteria it had laid out in the request for proposals.

There were four bidders on the project, and neither Mr. Rotondo nor Mr. Paciello was the high bidder in terms of the rent each proposed to pay the airport to use the property. Commissioners found flaws with the highest bidder’s proposal, including whether that company planned to continue operating a gas station, according to arguments made in the courtroom.

Though he acknowledged potential flaws in how the commission rated each of the bidders, David Mackey, the attorney representing the Airport Commission, said Mr. Paciello’s bid was far more lucrative than the one submitted by Mr. Rotondo. Mr. Paciello agreed to pay nearly $400,000 more over the life of the 20-year lease, he said.

“The error affected all the applicants,” Mr. Mackey said. “It was a wash across all the applicants.” He called Mr. Paciello’s bid “a blowout” compared with what Mr. Rotondo offered, noting that his client plans to offer many of the same amenities.

Mr. Mahoney called it a “rigged process” that favored Mr. Paciello, arguing that commission chairman Myron Garfinkle did not want Airport Mobil to continue operating. “He’s got a grudge against my client,” Mr. Mahoney said.

Mr. Mackey rejected the idea that Mr. Garfinkle and the commission had an “axe to grind” with Mr. Rotondo. “I can’t fathom that,” he said.

Mr. Paciello was represented at the hearing by attorney Marilyn Vukota.