HONOLULU - Mesa Air Group Inc. said Monday it has fired Chief Financial Officer Peter Murnane, who deleted key evidence from his computers related to a lawsuit filed by Hawaiian Airlines Inc.
William Hoke, the vice president of finance, will continue to serve as the Phoenix-based company's interim CFO.
Murnane, 49, was placed on administrative leave in September, pending an internal investigation, after he was accused of destroying evidence that would have proven that Mesa misused propriety information it gathered as a potential investor during Hawaiian's bankruptcy.
A few days later, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Faris determined that Murnane intentionally destroyed files that Mesa used before launching interisland carrier go! airlines.
Mesa argued in court that the files were accidentally deleted when Murnane wiped his computers clean to get rid of pornography. But Faris didn't accept the porn-purging excuse.
Last week, Faris awarded Hawaiian $80 million in damages, which represented approximate loses suffered by the Honolulu-based carrier since Mesa launched go! airlines last year. Hawaiian was seeking $173 million.
Mesa vowed to appeal and remain in the Hawaii market, which has been controlled by Hawaiian and rival Aloha Airlines for decades.
The confidential files included company secrets including figures detailing the profitability of local routes and Hawaii-U.S. mainland routes, passenger profiles and expansion plans.
Hawaiian argued Mesa entered the Hawaii market based on that information. But Mesa says it had been studying the market for years and the confidential documents had no value.
Since go! started in June 2006, interisland airfares have dropped by as much as half, increasing the number of interisland passengers and affecting the bottom lines of Hawaiian and Aloha. The two carriers reported combined losses of $82.1 million last year.
Mesa is one of the nation's largest regional carriers with 182 jets, 5,000 employees and annual revenues exceeding $1 billion. It flies to more than 170 cities under the America West Express, Delta Connection, United Express and other brand names.
Shares of Mesa fell .10, or 2.2 percent, on Monday to close at $4.54 on the Nasdaq. Over the past year, the stock has traded in a range of $4.34 to $9.24