Airport gas station suit closer to trial

Case about alleged bid-rigging survives motion to dismiss.

Airport Commission chairman Bob Rosenbaum sits in the courtroom as defense counsel David Mackey argues before Judge Robert Rufo. — Rich Saltzberg

A lawsuit filed by the owner of the former Airport Mobil Station against the Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission withstood a motion to dismiss Friday in Barnstable Superior Court. The case dates from 2017, when the airport did not renew a site lease with Airport Fuel Services (AFS) following a bid process, and instead awarded the lease to Depot Corner. Attorneys for AFS have argued the bid process was tainted, and are seeking $14.4 million in damages for a deal to sell the gas station they say was upended by the bid loss. Attorneys for the Airport Commission maintain the case is without merit, and describe the suit as a bitter parting shot by AFS owner Michael Rotondo, after losing out to Depot Corner owner Louis Paciello.

Before Judge Robert Rufo, Airport Commission attorneys David Mackey and Christina Marshall moved to dismiss the case on the grounds discovery had unearthed evidence of spoliation, a legal term for the destruction of evidence. They asserted AFS had eliminated business emails, and in doing so had kept potentially key evidence out of the hands of the defense. Attorney Marilyn Vukota, who represented Depot Corner, also spoke in support of this assertion. AFS attorneys Michael Mahoney and Susan Grondine did not deny their client deleted emails, but argued it was not done deceitfully, but innocently, by folks who aren’t very tech-savvy. 

Judge Rufo ruled spoliation did occur, but characterized it as negligent and not intentional, and denied the motion to dismiss. 

A date for a summary judgment hearing was penciled in for June, with a possible trial date in October if the case proceeds past summary judgment. 



  1. I hope they have $15 million of insurance because this illegal bid process was pre ordained by the powers that be-They just didn’t like the owner. So he tore it down-man of integrity-i’m not sure i would have had the money or guts to do it.

  2. If you don’t understand the terms of a contract, don’t sign it, and seek legal advice before doing so. The airport should fight this one and seek damages and legal fees from a frivolous lawsuit.

    • Did you read the article? It’s not about the contract. It’s about the bidding process and whether it was rigged.

      • A ‘rigged bid’ would mean that someone who offers LESS gets the land. In this case, its just the opposite. The highest responsible bidder apparently won. Per published articles The former lease holder wanted a ‘do-over’ , because their lower bid lost out to Paciello who paid quite a bit more. So anything can be ‘alleged’ in a court and many times a settlement is offered due to the high cost of litigation. Based upon what has been published here in the past, the former leaseholder was not offered an ‘option to renew’ at the time of the initial lease signing, and chose to become a squatter after the lease expired, thus depriving the winning bidder from a summer’s worth of profits. If I was Paciello, I’d be suing the former leaseholder for lost profits due to his failure to vacate the property in a timely fashion.

  3. I hope Rotundo gets his money….does anyone price check?? You are generally paying 20 to 30 cents more per gallon at the new station compared to Up Island Auto and you have to pump it yourself! Yes I have purchased gas there where I realized I was almost out but I only bought enough to get me to the Up Island Auto. I also think it’s funny that the new owner thought just because he built a huge store that he would just be “allowed” to use it because of who he is and never mind was supposed to abide by the square foot just like the old store; well he learned the hard way and now they have tiny store and a huge storage area.
    They also chose not to use a quick oil change station, which is a loss to the community. They also charge a PREMIUM on everything you buy in there and they don’t price their stuff (which at one time was a law in MA) you have no idea how much you are really spending until you get to the cash register. So, God bless and good luck to everyone.

  4. There was a higher bidder but the airport chose the lower one. Rotundo has a good case.

    • If Rotundo was the higher bidder and his bid was rejected for a lower bidder, he would have a case as an aggrieved ‘responsible bidder’ since he was able to continue in business with the facility in place. But his bid was much lower, so no matter about the process he did not ‘suffer’ any loss other than sour grapes since someone who is a ‘responsible’ bidder won with a higher bid. If I bid more, but have no experience in the gas station industry and did not have the money i would not be considered a ‘responsible bidder’ and I’d expect my bid to be disregarded. Apparently these gas station operators are able to get very wealthy here. Moral of the story. Buy your own land and dont depend on a landlord. in ANY business

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