ATLANTA (AP) — Were airport funds used to pay legal expenses arising from a grand jury investigating City Hall corruption?  The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into a report that city officials may have diverted funds dedicated to airport expenses.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that FAA regulations require that airport funds be spent on airport capital and operating expenses.

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Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the world’s busiest, with more than 100 million passengers using it each year.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in June that the city used airport funds to pay two law firms, Los Angeles-based Paul Hastings LLP and Miami-based Greenberg Traurig.

In response to questions about why the money went to legal funds, city officials have said that Hastings is the city’s outside counsel on airport matters, but they wouldn’t comment regarding payments to Greenberg Traurig.

Barbara Lichman, an aviation lawyer in southern California, has said if the firms were paid from airport funds for legal services unrelated to the airport she believed the payments would meet the definition of revenue diversion.

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“You’re not allowed to take money from the airport off the airport,” she said. “By paying for other city departments you’re taking money off the airport.”

In a July 26 letter to the airport’s interim general manager, an FAA compliance officer director says the newspaper article raises questions that the FAA must address.

“The Federal Aviation Administration will not make a determination regarding any possible impacts to Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport until our investigation is completed,” said Arlene Salac, an FAA spokeswoman, in an emailed statement Thursday.

A grand jury has been investigating corruption at Atlanta City Hall involving the administration of Mayor Kasim Reed dating back to 2015. The newspaper reported that at least four people have pleaded guilty to bribery charges and are cooperating with the ongoing investigation.


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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,