EL MONTE — G & H Aircraft Inc., a fixture at El Monte Airport for more than two decades, is being ousted from the airport for what the county says are violations of its rental agreement, and two investigations are under way in connection with the company.
The county ordered the company to leave by Jan. 15 after the Board of Supervisors voted to terminate the firm's rental agreement when G & H missed a deadline for full payment of more than $20,000 in back rent, county officials said. The company paid all but $531 dollars of the rent, but failed to comply with several other terms of the agreement, the officials said.
G & H has operated an airplane dealership, flight school and maintenance shop since 1962 and is the oldest and second-largest aviation concern at the county-owned airport.
Faces Other Problems
The company's owner, Glen Nickerman, faces other problems as well.
Nickerman's business relationship with county Aviation Division Chief Jack Tippie is being investigated by the county administrative officer, according to Tippie and other county officials. Tippie, who said he has bought four planes from Nickerman, said that his dealings with Nickerman have not posed any conflict of interest. Nickerman said he has not received special treatment from the county because of his relationship with Tippie.
In addition, the district attorney's office and the El Monte Police Department are wrapping up a joint, nine-month criminal investigation of Nickerman's business practices, according to authorities. Nickerman has denied any criminal wrongdoing and no charges have been filed.
Nickerman already has been charged by the state Employment Development Department with 10 misdemeanor violations of the state Unemployment Insurance Code involving about $6,500 in unpaid taxes. He pleaded not guilty to the charges on Dec. 6 in Rio Hondo Municipal Court.
Declined to Elaborate
Deputy Dist. Atty. Frederick Stewart, who is handling the district attorney's investigation of Nickerman, declined to elaborate on the case. However, a county memo concerning the case from George Y. Tice, county director of facilities management, quoted board Chairman Pete Schabarum as saying at a Nov. 12 supervisor's meeting that the investigation involves allegations of "fraudulent business practices."
Nickerman, 56, said in an interview this week that the investigation was triggered by customers who complained that he sold them airplanes that had bank liens against their titles without disclosing that information. He said that some of the liens had been paid off before sale of the planes, but that the banks had not removed the liens for reasons he could not determine. Nickerman said he is trying to arrange financing to clear up any remaining problems with outstanding liens on aircraft he has sold.
"Most of the complaints involved banks that never released the liens," he said. They are in the process of being resolved."
Schabarum requested the administrative officer's investigation after Art Gordon, the owner of a flight school and airplane repair concern at the airport, wrote to complain about business dealings between Tippie and Nickerman, said Tom Hibbard, Schabarum's senior deputy. In a letter to Schabarum, the tenant raised the question of whether Tippie was protecting Nickerman from eviction in exchange for work on Tippie's personal airplane.
Supervises 5 Airports
A 27-year county employee, Tippie supervises the operation of the five county-owned airports, El Monte, Compton Airport, Brackett Field in La Verne, Fox Field in Lancaster and Whiteman Airport in Pacoima.
Tippie said he has known Nickerman since before he went to work for the county, when they both worked at the then-privately owned Compton Airport. He said he has purchased four planes from Nickerman in the past 20 years, but said that the transactions have not posed any conflict of interest.
Tippie said that about 18 months ago he bought a twin-engine Cessna 310 from Nickerman. He said he parked the plane at G & H from then until early October, when Hibbard suggested that it be moved to Brackett Field to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Tippie said that during that period the aircraft had been undergoing repairs and he paid no separate tie-down fee for its storage.
"I don't feel there's been any conflict," Tippie said. "I think it would be wrong, if we're trying to promote airports, to go to a non-county airport to have work done. The main thing is he had the airplane I wanted.
"He (Schabarum) asked the CAO to specifically check out my relationship (to Nickerman) because of accusations of some people there have made regarding my airplane and I haven't got anything to hide. I probably should have suggested it myself."
Nickerman said that he did not receive preferential treatment from the county because of his relationship with Tippie.
"Mr. Tippie has a lot of integrity," Nickerman said. "He's got a very important position and he doesn't stand up for me."
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