Chicago had no choice but to use funds from O’Hare International and Midway International airports to clean up the “abandoned” Meigs Field.
So say city attorneys in a 40-page response to an FAA investigation that Chicago improperly used $1.5 million in airport development funds earmarked for O’Hare and Midway to destroy Meigs Field.
If the funds hadn’t been used, attorneys claim, the city would have faced a lawsuit from the airport’s owner, the Chicago Parks District.
The FAA began its investigation after AOPA filed a complaint saying that Chicago had not given the required 30-days’ notice before closing the airport. The agency found the complaint valid and fined the city the maximum $33,100. FAA officials also began looking into the possible diversion of federal funds.
In its response, the city acknowledged that it notified the FAA of the “deactivation of Meigs” on the same day the demolition began. City attorneys also acknowledged that $2.8 million in airport development funds from O’Hare and Midway were used for the demolition project, but claimed there was precedent for doing so, citing examples in Denver and Austin, Texas. What they did not say was that in both of those cases the old airports were replaced with new airports, and the FAA approved the expenditure of funds in advance, AOPA officials note.
If the FAA determines Chicago used federal airport funds improperly, it could fine the city $8.4 million, three times the amount of diverted funds.