Ex-airport director Tippetts dropped from civil lawsuit

In an unopposed action, a federal judge Friday dropped former Grand Junction Regional Airport Director of Aviation Rex Tippetts from a civil lawsuit filed by a former airport employee.

U.S. District Judge Brooke Jackson ordered Tippetts to be dismissed, with prejudice, from the lawsuit filed in December by Donna VanLandingham. The airport’s former security coordinator, VanLandingham had named Tippetts in a detailed lawsuit claiming Tippetts had first demoted her to run the airport’s Subway franchise, then fired her in retaliation for a refusal to perpetuate fraud against federal authorities.

John Steel, the Telluride attorney who represents VanLandingham, wrote in a motion to dismiss that federal law appears to prohibit VanLandingham from suing Tippetts in his individual capacity.

The Grand Junction Regional Airport Authority is still named in the lawsuit.

Steel said the voluntary dismissal “is in no way” a concession of defenses offered by Tippetts, but an acknowledgment the law gives him no individual liability in the case.

“Each party has agreed to bear its own costs and attorney’s fees in connection with this unopposed motion,” Steel’s filing said.

VanLandingham claimed in her lawsuit that her firing on Jan. 5, 2011, related to a “refusal to obey orders” from Tippetts who was engaged in wide-ranging fraud.

Tippetts denied wrongdoing in a formal response, claiming VanLandingham was fired “pursuant to a reorganization of the airport staff, pursuant to which another Airport Authority employee was also being laid off.”

VanLandingham alleged Tippetts offered a “take-it-or-leave-it” separation agreement in which she pledged to not sue the Airport Authority or its employees. She claimed she signed it under duress in order to get the $8,153 she was owed.


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