NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The airport's largest business is threatening to pull funding for a planned administrative building and file suit against the city over "turmoil" caused by convicted rapist Alex Kelly.
In a letter sent to the Airport Commission, Harry S. Patten Jr., owner of Turboprop East, expressed frustration that the fuel-farm lease for his company still had not been signed because the commission was "embroiled with an individual of dubious character and this is preventing them from properly functioning."
"Due to this turmoil, I am withdrawing my donation to fund the new FBO," he wrote. "Furthermore, if the Commission cannot perform its duties to control and regulate the airport, I will bring suit against the city of North Adams and members of the Airport Commission personally."
He calls in his letter for the city to appoint a new commission that can act professionally.
"The management by an inept Commission will damage the airport and my business at TurboProp," Patten writes.
The letter was received by the commission the same day it approved a lease for office space for Kelly's Taconic Aviation flight school and Berkshire Skydiving companies. Commissioners had put Kelly off for months on a decision, saying they were reviewing and updating leasing contracts.
Kelly had already been approved for operating his skydiving school at Harriman & West Airport.
Mayor Thomas Bernard on Thursday said he had received a copy of the letter and reached out to Patten to meet with him.
"He's indicated he's willing to meet," Bernard said. "My office has reached out to his office."
Kelly, also known as the "preppy rapist," was charged with two rapes in Connecticut while in high school. He fled before his trial began and spent nearly a decade evading authorities in Europe before finally surrendering and being convicted in 1997. He was sentenced to 16 years but released in 2007 on good behavior.
Independently wealthy, he learned how to skydive after being released and become involved with club in Connecticut but was asked to leave after several alleged incidents that involved threats or violence. He later opened his own school in Bennington, Vt., with apparently no issues and purchased TeamFlys, which is based at the North Adams airport. Kelly's attempts to purchase TeamFlys and open at Harriman & West were delayed for months and he accused the commissioners of stalling.
On Tuesday, the commission said its decision to lease the hangar office space was based on the fact that Kelly's operation seemed more viable than a club that also applied to lease the space. That vote was met by vocal opposition from a number of residents who attended the meeting.
The Federal Aviation Authority does not have restrictions against those with criminal pasts with the exceptions of substance abuse, at least for the type of flying for which Kelly is certified.
Bernard said these decisions come under the Airport Commission's purview but thought it would be difficult to deny an application if it conformed to allowable use.
"I know that the airport has gotten advice through the FAA of what they can and can't consider," he said. He also confirmed his office has gotten some comments on Kelly's presence at the airport.
He declined to speculate on the possibility that denying Kelly space to operate would somehow endanger FAA funding. The airport has received nearly $30 million over the past two decades. "I don't have the information to comment on that right now," the mayor said.
Turboprop East, established in 1968, is a major Northeast maintenance facility for several lines of aircraft. The Patten Family Companies purchased the Turboprop in 1995.
The federal and state matching funds for the $4 million administrative building never came through and the city is planning to move a nearby former doctor's building donated by Berkshire Health Systems. Bernard said there are no immediate plans for that move but it is on the city's list of projects. Patten's donation, so far, is still just a pledge.
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Is Mr. Kelly in 100% compliance regarding his obligation with the sex offender registry requirements? Has FBI been contacted for guidance?
Background on the National Sex Offenders Registry
Our Crimes Against Children Unit at FBI Headquarters coordinated the development of the National Sex Offenders Registry (NSOR), which is currently managed by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division.
The Pam Lychner Sexual Offender Tracking and Identification Act of 1996 (Lychner Act) required the Attorney General to establish a national database at the FBI to track the whereabouts and movements of certain convicted sex offenders under Title 42 of the United States Code Section 14072. The National Crime Information Center (NCIC) run by the FBI enables the NSOR to retain the offender’s current registered address and dates of registration, conviction, and residence.
The Lychner Act imposed two major obligations on the FBI that became effective October 3, 1997:
To establish a national database that tracks the location and movements of each person who has been convicted of a criminal offense against a victim who is a minor, has been convicted of a sexually violent offense, or is a sexually violent predator.
To register and verify the addresses of sex offenders who reside in states without a “minimally sufficient” sex offender registry (SOR) program. Today, all 50 states have minimally sufficient SOR programs.
Under the Act, the FBI may release relevant information to federal, state, and local criminal justice agencies for law enforcement purposes only. Public notification will only be made if it is necessary to protect the public. However, the Act specifically states that in no case shall the FBI release the identity of any victim of an offense that required registration of a sex offender.
The legislation also made it a criminal offense for a registered sex offender to move to another state and knowingly fail to notify the FBI and authorities in the new state. Notification to the FBI and state authorities must be made within 10 days upon moving to a new state and/or establishing residence following release from prison or placed on parole, supervised release, or probation. Upon release, each sex offender is notified of their lawful duty to register with the FBI and appropriate local authorities.
The Jacob Wetterling Crimes Against Children and Sexual Violent Offender Registration Program, enacted in 1994, provides a financial incentive for states to establish registration programs for persons who have been convicted of certain sex crimes.
Megan’s Law, enacted in May 1996, amended the Wetterling Program legislation to give states broad discretion to determine to whom notification should be made about offenders, under what circumstances, and about which offenders.
There's a winter weather advisory in effect overnight Friday in the Berkshires and a chance of up to 5 inches of snow.
The National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., issued the advisory effective from midnight to 10 a.m. on Saturday with warnings of slippery roads in the morning.
The snowfall could reach up to an inch an hour for a brief period in the morning and will be accompanied by winds up to 40 mph. There's also a chance of sleet and freezing rain in the mix.
Temperatures could reach a high of 40 in the Hudson River valley on Saturday and Sunday will be windy, with some gusts possibly reaching 35-45 mph across eastern New York and the Berkshires. High temperatures Sunday ranging from the mid-20s/lower 30s for higher terrain, to the mid 30s to around 40 for valley areas. Lows Sunday night in the teens and 20s. Monday will be similar.