TransWest Air COO Garrett Lawless makes an announcement at its Prince Albert terminal this summer. Photo by Chelsea Laskowski

Prince Albert’s city manager says a tension-filled week between the City and TransWest Air stems from several e-mails that led him to believe the City was being threatened with a lawsuit.

On Monday, the city-run airport gave TransWest Air an eviction notice for its terminal, effective Jan. 1, stating that TransWest had rejected the lease’s terms.

For the past year, TransWest and the City had been working to resolve a past financial issue. City manager Jim Toye cites the content of a string of e-mails relating to those negotiations as his reason for sending the notice.

These e-mails, sent in recent weeks, have confused both sides and created an unexpected change of tone in a previously cordial relationship between TransWest and the City.

The emails led Toye to believe TransWest was ramping up for a legal battle.

“They had sent us an email a few weeks ago, said that this matter would be settled in court and then a subsequent email that stated that they had referred the matter to their legal, which in my mind, we felt that that was preparing themselves for a court case,” he said on Thursday.

TransWest Air COO Garrett Lawless provided MBC with the portion from the emails that Toye was referring to. In the first, Transwest Air states, I do not believe that this ruling is in the spirit of contract law, and so we will likely let the courts decide on this. That said, and in the meantime, we are happy to sign an agreement commencing January 1, 2016 to keep us in business together until the other matter is resolved. ”

The second states, Pat has called me and they talked about the choices for YPA and have decided to take this issue to our legal people for an opinion to make decision.”

To Toye, the second email implied an escalation of the situation and pending lawsuit.

“It was more like a shot across the bow, that ‘this is what we’re going to do to the city.’ To me, I considered that a threat and I don’t respond to them. I just don’t. If people are going to threaten the city then I just kind of, was taking time to consider it, what they were saying, and was not too many days after that, it might have been a week after and they said they’re going to be,” he said.

It seems that over the past few weeks, Toye and Lawless have had very different views on their relationship.

“I cannot imagine how these exchanges imply that we were planning to take the city to court,” Lawless wrote in an email to MBC on Thursday.

In regards to the negotiations over the financial dispute, Lawless said “I thought we were on the cusp of resolution. The City had softened their approach. They came to us with a concession. We were generally happy with it but we had asked to be able to speak to legal counsel before making our decision.”

But, the two sides are only now becoming aware of the rationale behind each other’s’ decisions.

Toye said he didn’t contact Lawless to clarify the perceived threat before terminating the upcoming lease. He said the City doesn’t want to be tied to a business that would sue it.

“Is that what we’d want to do when we’ve got other parties, to be honest, who certainly would be interested in that particular lease spot?” he said.

Lawless told MBC he apologizes if things seemed threatening, because that was not the intent. He points out that the City was looking to collect money from TransWest. If anyone was going to act, it would be the City who takes legal action to recover that money, not TransWest.

To Lawless, the eviction letter seemed very final.

“The letter that I received, that we received from Jim Toye was quite stern, it was very pointed and it left no room for negotiation,” he said.

Toye clarified his stance, saying he didn’t expect things to end with that letter.

“Part of it was because of the 30-day notice and I never did think it would be final, I always did think there would be more, an opportunity, and I just wanted them to be aware that this 30-day notice was required and moving forward that it would be difficult to carry on this relationship and that’s why the further five year was pulled,” he said.

On Wednesday, Lawless said the events of this week change his view of TransWest’s future in Prince Albert.

Now, Toye says he wants things resolved.

“Really that’s what I want. Really, at the end of the day that is in the best interest and I just want to make sure that (it’s clear) I’m not throwing in the towel here,” he said. “At the end of the day I think it is in the best interest of both the City of Prince Albert and TransWest that we resolve this matter.”

Both Toye and Lawless have said they’d like to have a meeting to clear up any possible misunderstandings.

“Maybe it is just a misunderstanding. If it just a misunderstanding then fine, I’m happy to go back to understanding the relationship we have with the city as I previously did,” Lawless said.

MBC will have updates once this meeting takes place.