October 9, 2008
LAX Board May Have Illegally Paid Tourism Bureau
By Art Marroquin
LAX RELATED LINKS: PHOTOS Gallery of The Coast Guard Air Station Los Angeles, based in LAX, at its wet drill FlyAway bus service fees to climb in 2009 No decision made on 'pay to play' legal fees LAX-bound flight diverted due to illnessThe FAA launched an investigation in July to determine whether LAWA has violated federal spending laws since 2002, when it provided the funds to L.A. Inc. for a series of marketing efforts aimed at attracting travelers to Los Angeles International Airport, LA/ Ontario International Airport and LA/Palmdale Regional Airport.
LAWA has until the end of the month to provide the FAA with additional documents to support the spending plan with L.A. Inc. The FAA is expected to release a final audit in the coming months.
If the FAA ultimately determines the money was misspent, then LA Inc. could be ordered to return the $40 million, plus interest, to LAWA.
"It certainly gets our attention when the FAA is telling us that, even in a preliminary notice, that they need more documentation to be comfortable with some of our expenditures," said Gina Marie Lindsey, LAWA's executive director.
"We're confident that a great deal of the marketing work that we have been doing is certainly necessary, and within FAA constraints," Lindsey said. "Whether every last dollar of it is or not, I don't know and we won't know until we sit down and discuss the specifics with the FAA."
The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners was briefed on the FAA's preliminary findings during a closed-door executive meeting Wednesday. Commission President Alan Rothenberg, who sits on L.A. Inc.'s board of directors, recused himself from the discussion.
FAA spokesman Ian Gregor declined to discuss the audit, but confirmed that an investigation was ongoing.
Carol Martinez, a spokeswoman for L.A. Inc., also declined to comment on the FAA's probe, but airport officials said the agency helped bolster international tourism by opening offices in London, Beijing and Tokyo.
Additionally, Michael Collins, L.A. Inc.'s executive vice president, also holds an unpaid position as a LAWA executive.
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