OIG Investigating Venice Municipal Airport For Possible Misappropriation Of Federal Dollars


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OIG Investigating Venice Municipal Airport For Possible Misappropriation Of Federal Dollars

By Mike Mitchell

June 4, 2010 - The Office of Inspector General (OIG) plans to review use of airport revenue at the Venice, Florida, Municipal Airport to ensure compliance with Airport Improvement Program grant assurances. OIG is conducting this review after a September 2009 assessment at this airport, requested by Senator George Lemieux, who had identified issues warranting review.  

OIG audit objective will be to determine whether FAA’s oversight ensures that the City of Venice is using airport revenues only for appropriate purposes and that the airport is as self-sustaining as possible. 

Senator George LeMieux had asked the Federal Aviation Administration to respond to a request by the city manager on December 15, 2009 to downgrade Venice Municipal Airport from C-II (accommodating higher performance aircraft) to B-11. 


On January 8, 2010 the Orlando Airports District Office (ADO) responded to City Manager, Isaac Turner's letter requesting to downgrade Venice Municipal Airport.  

“The FAA cannot approve this change because it would likely impact existing airport users of higher performance aircraft. In addition, in 2006, the city asked for and accepted a $3,744,194 grant to rehabilitate Runway 13/31 to C-II standards. This grant obligates the city of Venice to preserve the runway's C-II category”. 

“You asked for consideration of three points: avoiding disruption to airport neighbors, minimizing impacts to the city golf course, and using the city's traffic counts. First, while it is unfortunate the airport disrupts airport neighbors, the airport has been in existence for more than 60 years. It predates many of the homes in the area. The ADO shared with the city that we may be able to assist them in buying some of the homes located in the runway protection zone. 

“Second, the city's golf course is on federally obligated airport property. As such, FAA approval was required before allowing this interim, non-aviation use to exist, but our approval came with conditions.


“One condition was that if the FAA needs the land for an aeronautical purpose, the agreement would need to be extinguished. In addition, the city must run the golf course in a manner that does not affect FAA airport design standards. As planning for airport infrastructure improvements is done, the aviation need takes precedence over the golf course and its projected revenue. 

“Finally, the traffic counts presented to the ADO on December 10, 2009 did not include the peak months for airport traffic and were, therefore, incomplete. Venice Municipal Airport receives more jet operations during the winter months than the rest of the year”. 

Airports nationwide continue to face challenges in complying with Airport Improvement Program grant assurances regarding the use of airport revenues. In August 2009, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reviewed land use at the Venice, Florida, Municipal Airport and found many of the same problems with revenue diversions that OIG and the Government Accountability Office identified during the 1990s. 

OIG will conduct the audit at the Venice Municipal Airport and FAA’s Headquarters, Southern Region, and Orlando Airport District Office. OIG will start the audit later this month.

Venice Municipal Airport is a city managed public-use airport located two miles south of the central business district of Venice, a city in Sarasota County, Florida, United States.  

The airport was built during the 1940s by the United States Army Air Force. It served as a military flight training facility. It also was used by Air Transport Command to deliver US-built aircraft destined for Britain under Lend-lease from the factories on the West Coast or picked British pilots. Some of the aircraft were partially disassembled and prepared for being loaded onboard ships for the trip across the Atlantic Ocean. After World War II, the U.S. government gave airport control to the City of Venice, naming them airport sponsor through various grant assurances.

After the September 11 attacks of 2001, authorities found out that three of the 9/11 terrorists, Mohamed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah, had all enrolled at the Huffman Aviation flight training school at the Venice Municipal Airport for aviation lessons.
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