Ontario International Airport

An Alaska Airlines jet takes off from Ontario International Airport near the Ontario Convention Center. (File photo)

Liset Marquez, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/23/2013 09:32:22 AM PDT
Updated: 04/23/2013 07:52:33 PM PDT

LOS ANGELES — With Ontario threatening to sue for control of LA/Ontario International Airport, Los Angeles council members were warned by the city’s top administrator on Tuesday that it could be in for a long legal battle before a resolution is reached.

Ontario filed a claim with Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports on April 11 seeking to dissolve the 1967 joint-powers agreement that rescued ONT from failure but now is blamed for strangling the airport’s prospects. Ontario officials contend LAWA, which manages ONT and Los Angeles International Airport, is putting its resources into LAX and mismanaging ONT.

LAWA set a sale price of $474 million for ONT – nearly double the $250 million Ontario offered last year. Ontario officially rejected the price a day before filing the claim.

Up until then, the two entities had met half a dozen times over a six-month period to discuss the possibility of a transfer of control, said Miguel Santana, the city’s administrative officer, during the council meeting on Tuesday.

“Through pursuing legal channels it changes the nature of the process and only prolongs any likely resolution,” Santana said.

Los Angeles council agreed to have the city attorney work with LAWA and Santana to determine the validity of Ontario’s claim and what legal options it could pursue.

The council also directed Santana work with LAWA to examine other alternatives there were to manage ONT. He was asked to report back with recommendations.

Ontario Councilman Alan Wapner has argued that there are no suitable management alternatives for ONT as long as Los Angeles has oversight of the midsize airport. ONT has lost 40 percent of its passenger traffic since 2007.

“Los Angeles’ breaches of contract and fiduciary duty have resulted in a sharp decline in air service and passenger activity at ONT over the past five years, and these disastrous trends will continue as long as the fate of ONT remains tied to Los Angeles and its untenable conflict of interest,” Wapner said.

The councilman said he and the Ontario International Airport Authority, which is leading the effort to try and to wrest control of ONT from Los Angeles, are still determined to work with Los Angeles city government to “ensure a smooth transition of airport control for the benefit of the entire region, including Los Angeles.”

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