The Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission has gone to court seeking to freeze the bank accounts of Airport Mobil gas station owner Michael Rotondo, in anticipation of claiming rent, costs of cleanup, attorney fees and damages “likely far exceeding $450,000,” according to court documents filed in Dukes County superior court.

Depot Corner Inc., the company which won a disputed bid to lease the airport property where Mr. Rotondo has operated a gas station, car wash, and convenience store for the past 20 years, filed a memorandum in support of the airport commission’s legal action, saying it intends to seek additional damages totaling $577,500.

Airport Mobil convenience station now empty of goods. — Mark Lovewell

Answering the claims of the airport commission, an attorney for Airport Mobil said despite a court ruling that Mr. Rotondo had breached his lease by operating the business beyond the expiration date, the airport commission has not suffered damages and has made no attempt to mitigate the damages it claims. Mr. Rotondo’s attorney said his client is owed damages because the airport commission interfered with his attempts to negotiate with Depot Corner for sale of the infrastructure.

A hearing on the motions was held July 18 in Boston before the Hon. Mitchell Kaplan, an associate justice of the superior court. Judge Kaplan took the matter under advisement, and the parties are expected back in court for another hearing next week.

The claims and counterclaims stem from an ongoing legal dispute which began this past winter when the airport awarded the lease to Depot Corner, which outbid Airport Mobil (formally known as Airport Fuel Services, or AFS in court documents) in an open bidding process. Mr. Rotondo was unsuccessful in a court challenge claiming the airport commission erred in multiple aspects of the bid process. The airport agreed to let him continue operating the business until May 15, but he is now under a court eviction order to remove all of the buildings and other infrastructure from the lot by July 31. Mr. Rotondo closed the business and began taking down the station on Monday this week, including demolition of the buildings.

Demolition underway at Airport Mobil — Mark Lovewell

“The Martha’s Vineyard Airport Commission (MVAC) is seeking significant monetary damages,” commission attorney David Mackey wrote in the court motion, “likely far exceeding $450,000, from Airport fuel Services (AFS) as a result of AFS’s refusal to cease its business and vacate leased premises controlled by the MVAC despite the fact that its lease has unequivocally expired, and as a result of AFS’s refusal to timely remove the improvements it constructed on the property despite the clear requirement that it do so at the end of its lease.”

In the motion filed July 11 in Dukes County superior court, the airport commission cited four separate incidences where it anticipates seeking monetary damages.

The commission claims it is owed fair rental value of the lot from the time an extension of Mr. Rotondo’s lease expired on May 15, to July 31, a total of $26,325, minus $5,256 that Mr. Rotondo has already paid in rent. The commission based its calculation of fair rental value on the winning bid from the bidding process, $3.49 per square foot, which amounts to $10,530 per month.

Further, the airport commission said it is owed the cost of removing the fuel station infrastructure, estimated at $197,000. The motion was filed before Mr. Rotondo began to decommission the gas station himself.

The airport commission said that according to the terms of the lease it is also entitled to recover attorney fees in the protracted legal dispute.

Mobil station says goodbye and thanks to loyal customers. — Mark Lovewell

“In total, the attorneys’ fees and costs the MVAC will incur in enforcing the lease in the summary process [eviction] matter in the district court and the counterclaim in [superior court] will likely exceed $50,000,” Mr. Mackey wrote.

Finally, the commission also asserts a claim of unjust enrichment against Airport Mobil, claiming that Mr. Rotondo made significant profits from the property when he had no legal right to be there. The attorney based the damages on Airport Mobil financial statements.

“Even a conservative estimate is that AFS will generate $175,000 in net profit from May 16 to July 31,” Mr. Mackey wrote in the court document.

In its memorandum in support of the airport commission, Depot Corner used strong language in its attempt to convince the court to freeze Airport Mobil’s bank accounts.

“It’s almost certain,” wrote Depot Corner attorney Marilyn Vukota in her memorandum, “that any AFS assets will disappear when AFS closes its doors and terminates its operations. Because AFS has demonstrated a remarkable capacity to deliberately obstruct the transfer of property it has no legal right to possess, AFS cannot be trusted to retain assets that may be needed to satisfy a future judgment.”

Station closed for business at the end of the day on July 17. — Mark Lovewell

Depot Corner is asking the court to attach $557,500, representing earnings of $7,500 per day for the period when Mr. Rotondo’s lease extension ended on May 15, to July 31.

On Thursday afternoon an excavator was knocking down the cinder block car wash building. The convenience store building interior appeared completely gutted. The lot is surrounded by chain link fence, with large dumpsters either full of or awaiting building debris. Various crews were working on underground infrastructure.

“Excuse me, can I get gas here?” a motorist asked a bystander just outside the fence. When informed the station was closed, she swore and asked where the next nearest station is located.

On one of the fences hangs banner about eight feet long. It says: “Dear customers and friends, we regret the closing of Airport Mobil. Thank you for your business and support these past 20 years.” Mr. Rotondo could not be reached for comment.