Atlanta cleared of wrongdoing in airport revenue investigation

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News investigative reporter Richard Belcher learned that federal authorities have cleared the city of Atlanta after a long investigation into the suspected misuse of revenue from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Mayor Andre Dickens’ administration did not make anyone available for an interview, and a statement from his office just said the administration is encouraged by the findings.

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The Federal Aviation Administration undertook its review at the height of the federal criminal investigation by the Department of Justice.

Now, the FAA is finished with its investigation.

Hartsfield-Jackson is a cash cow, and there are strict rules limiting how the city can use that money.

In short, if it’s generated at the airport, it has to be spent on the airport.

The city can’t use airport money to hire more police, no matter how severe the crime problem becomes.

The FAA oversees the city’s handling of a gusher of cash.

Last year, revenue was down but still $450 million.

In the pre-COVID year of 2019, Hartsfield-Jackson’s revenue was $900 million.

In 2019, the FAA notified the city that it was opening an investigation to determine if the city unlawfully diverted airport revenue, withheld airport records or failed to report amounts paid or services provided by the airport to other city offices.

That came months after Channel 2 and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that then-Mayor Kasim Reed withheld from reporters a politically explosive grand jury subpoena about airport contracts.


The federal criminal investigation continues, but the review of airport revenue is over.

Channel 2 obtained an FAA document showing the agency has found “insufficient evidence to support the allegations.”

Amir Farokhi chairs the council transportation committee.

“I and my colleagues on the transportation committee were thrilled to learn that the FAA found no wrongdoing at the airport,” he said. “To know that the airport is doing things above board and transparently and with a high degree of ethics is something that we want to see at council, and we’re really happy to see today.”

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Mayor Dickens’ press secretary sent a statement that reads in part: “The administration is encouraged by the findings, and we continue to our keep our focus on ensuring Hartsfield-Jackson remains the busiest and most efficient airport in the world.”