Surf City is cleared to pay out as much as $7.4 million in a settlement agreement for shutting down the Pacific Air Show after an OC Superior Court Judge ruled taxpayers didn’t have any standing to intervene in the case. 

The settlement has been a hot button issue ever since it was announced in May, with City Attorney Michael Gates and the city council’s Republican majority announcing a deal had been reached with Pacific Airshow LLC. 

While the settlement is with the Pacific Airshow LLC, most of the negotiations have focused on Code Four, the airshow’s operator, which shares an address with the LLC. Both companies are owned by Kevin Elliot. 

But officials have declined to release a copy of the full terms publicly. The issue stems from the shutdown of the airshow in 2021 after news broke of a large oil spill off Orange County’s coast, which forced the cancellation of the third day of the event altogether.

[Read: Huntington Beach Reinstates Pacific Airshow, Settles Lawsuit with Operator]

Former Huntington Beach Mayor Connie Boardman and former planning commissioner Mark Bixby argued the settlement was an illegal gift of public funds and should be stopped, pointing out that Code Four was paid to help put on a campaign event for the city council’s majority and Gates last year.

Boardman and Bixy also claimed the settlement was more money than the company lost. 

“(City leaders) knew that (Pacific Airshow operator’s) complaint in the Underlying Litigation was without factual support,” wrote Lee Fink, Boardman and Bixby’s lawyer, in a court filing. “Such an expenditure is an unlawful gift of public funds.” 

[Read: Former HB Mayor Accuses Surf City Leaders of Illegally Gifting Public Funds to Airshow]

But on Wednesday, OC Superior Court Judge Martha Gooding ruled Boardman and Bixby didn’t have any legal right to intervene in the case just because they were residents. 

“Intervenors have not cited any authority for the broad proposition that they must be allowed to intervene in litigation between the government and a private party because of their status as residents and Taxpayers,” Gooding wrote. “Indeed, their position appears contrary to existing case law.” 

To read the full decision, click here

Gates praised the court’s decision in a Wednesday afternoon interview, saying it cemented the Pacific Airshow remaining in the city for years to come. 

“The case is finally resolved without disruption,” Gates said. “Ultimately we can move forward and the city can look forward to the 2023 airshow.”

Fink called Gooding’s decision a “procedural ruling,” that didn’t look at the merits of the case brought by Boardman and Bixby in a statement to Voice of OC on Wednesday. 

“The Court basically says that we have to file a separate action,” Fink said. “We are confident that when the Court looks at the case on the merits it will come to the same conclusion that … it is totally improper for the City of Huntington Beach to give $7 Million of taxpayer money to settle a wholly meritless lawsuit.” 

The settlement came after Code Four sued the city, alleging the city’s decision to shutdown the airshow during the 2021 oil spill violated the terms of their contract and cost the company millions of dollars. 

While the city initially fought the lawsuit, it was settled a few months after the council’s new conservative majority, self-dubbed the “Fab 4,” came into office with a promise to ensure the airshow stayed in Huntington Beach, ultimately agreeing to pay millions of dollars in damages to the operator. 

Mayor Tony Strickland and Councilmembers Gracey Van Der Mark, Casey McKeon and Pat Burns also paid Code Four to set up one of their joint campaign events, which led to some questions over whether or not the settlement was a conflict of interest. 

[Read: Surf City’s Settlement With Air Show Operator Raises Transparency, Ethics Concerns]

However, there’s still no decision over whether or not the terms of the agreement will need to be released publicly, with an active lawsuit from school board member and Huntington Beach resident Gina Clayton-Tarvin still open. 

Gates said that while he’s not personally handling the case since he’s a named defendant, there isn’t currently anything happening on it. 

“So the case is filed, and it exists, but there’s no action pending,” Gates said. “I’m not opposed to an early determination by the judge, but we just have to wait and see what gets filed and what the judge decides.” 

This article was updated on Wednesday evening to clarify the settlement was between the city of Huntington Beach and the Pacific Airshow LLC, which is controlled by Code Four.

Noah Biesiada is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at or on Twitter @NBiesiada.


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