A superior court judge this week heard arguments on both sides in a legal dispute over a decision by the Martha’s Vineyard airport commission last month to not renew a lease for the Airport Mobil station.

The Hon. Mitchell Kaplan, an associate justice of the superior court, said he will issue a ruling soon on a motion for a preliminary injunction filed by Airport Mobil owner Michael Rotondo. Mr. Rotondo’s 20-year lease for his gas station and car wash on lot 33 at the airport business park ran out last month, and was not renewed. On March 9 the Martha’s Vineyard airport commission voted to award a new 20-year lease for the property to Louis Paciello, the owner of two gas stations in downtown Edgartown: the Depot Corner Shell station and a Mobil station.

Mr. Rotondo is suing the commission and Mr. Paciello, arguing that the bidding process was unfair and misleading. His attorneys are seeking an injunction to halt the lease transfer. Attorneys for the airport say no laws were violated in the process that led to the award of the lease.

The Hon. Mitchell Kaplan, associate justice of the superior court, is hearing the case. — Mark Lovewell

At the hearing before Judge Kaplan in the Edgartown courthouse Tuesday, Michael L. Mahoney, representing Mr. Rotondo, said the commission failed to follow its own bidding process in the way it scored or ranked four separate proposals for the lease. Mr. Rotondo and Mr. Paciello were among the four bidders. Mr. Mahoney claimed the process was rigged against his client and he cited personality conflicts between Mr. Rotondo and members of the airport commission. “They wanted Mr. Paciello to get the station,” Mr. Mahoney said of the airport commission. The commission essentially “knifed Mr. Rotondo in the back,” he also said.

Criteria used by the airport commission in evaluating the four proposals included proposed rent, a description of the operation and a statement of experience. Mr. Rotondo, doing business as Airport Fuel Services, offered to pay $3.01 per square foot for the 36,000-square-foot property, the third highest bid. Mr. Paciello, doing business as Depot Corner Inc., had the second highest bid at $3.49 per square foot. The other two bidders were MVYABTlot34 LLC, which proposed $5 per square foot, and G.J. Smith Inc., which proposed $2.21 per square foot.

Mr. Mahoney raised questions about how the proposals were scored, arguing that the commission did not follow its own guidelines for scoring using objective factors. He questioned some of the information Mr. Paciello submitted, including how long he has been in business, and whether one of the airport commissioners that scored the proposals, Myron Garfinkle, was in the country at the time of the meetings.

“This is a case that screams for judicial intervention,” he said.

Mr. Mahoney said Mr. Paciello sells 1.5 million gallons of gasoline a year at his two stations, while Mr. Rotondo sells about 1.2 million gallons annually.

He added that while he didn’t have evidence to suggest a monopoly, he pointed out that Mr. Paciello would own three gas stations on the Island, selling about 2.7 million gallons of gasoline a year.

Attorney David Mackey, representing the airport commission, said the decision on the lease was made appropriately and in accordance with public bidding laws. He conceded that the commission may not have followed one criteria on the scoring sheets which called for automatically giving the top three bidders high ranking, but he said if that would have affected all the applicants. “That mistake was a wash,” Mr. Mackey said. He also said the fact that Mr. Rotondo previously held the lease should have no bearing under the law.

“ ‘I’ve been here 20 years, we’ve done fine, if it’s not broken don’t fix it’ — that’s not the way chapter 30B works,” the attorney said, referring to public bidding laws.

The case also touches on the complicated question of dismantling Mr. Rotondo’s station, which includes underground fuel storage tanks. In March the airport commission extended Mr. Rotondo’s lease to May 15 to give him time to take care of the matter, Mr. Mahoney said. The court complaint claims Mr. Paciello offered to pay Mr. Rotondo $250,000 for the existing infrastructure, “take it or leave it.” Mr. Mahoney said the station was appraised at $590,000 and other evaluations have shown the station to be worth millions, calling it a bad faith negotiation.

Judge Kaplan said that under the law, the question before him is not whether the airport commission made a bad decision. “The commission is entitled to make a poor decision. The court doesn’t get to decide whether [the airport] made a good, bad, or indifferent decision,” he said. Rather, he said, the court could decide whether the activity was capricious or “whether somehow the bidding process wasn’t followed.”

Judge Kaplan said that if public bidding laws were found to be violated, it would likely mean the bidding process would need to be redone and not that the bid would automatically be awarded to Mr. Rotondo.