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Bald Mountain case may result in a settlement

Aaron Bolton, KBBI News

A six-year long whistleblower caseinvolving Homer-based Bald Mountain Air Service and an Anchorage pilot may be headed toward a final resolution.

After an October court ruling sided with Anchorage Pilot and former Bald Mountain employee Brian Bell, Bald Mountain appealed the case. However, both parties will try to settle the dispute through non-binding arbitration before an appeal moves forward.

Bell’s attorney Paul Stockler.

“A federal administrative law judge who is either a settlement judge or mediator will conduct that from Washington D.C. with the parties here in Alaska,” Stockler explained. “It’s not binding. We’ll see if we can get the case resolved. If we get the case resolved, it’s the end of it, and if that attempt fails, then Bald Mountain can go forward with their appeal.”

The Oct. ruling ordered Bald Mountain to pay Bell $500,000 in back pay, dating back to 2012. That is a particular point of contention for Bald Mountain.

Bell claimed his former employer blacklisted him after he was fired just two days after a surprise Federal Aviation Administration inspection, resulting in roughly $67,000 worth of fines for safety violations. Bell and other employee’s complaints to the FAA spurred the inspection.

Bald Mountain attorney Aaron Sperbeck says his client denies ever blacklisting Bell.

“There’s a period of time where he is not actively employed, and then there’s a period of time where he does become employed and then voluntarily leaves that employment,” Sperbeck said, explaining his client’s argument. “There’s some legalities with that in terms of whether or not that’s a cutoff point in essence.”

Bell could potentially agree to a lower the amount of back pay Bald Mountain owes him, or the parties will have to settle that argument through the appeal process. However, it’s unclear when a judge will be assigned to oversee settlement negotiations.  

Aaron Bolton has moved on to a new position in Montana; he is no longer KBBI News Director. KBBI is currently seeking a News Director, and Kathleen Gustafson is filling in for the time being.
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