Department of Transportation slaps LAX for financial irregularities; Read the audit

The key is policing

Is Los Angeles International Airport overpaying for police? File photo.

Los Angeles International Airport may be violating federal law by spending some of its revenues on costs not vital to airport operations, a federal agency charged in an audit released this week.

I’ve got a full story on the problems found in the audit on our main website. But it’s pretty much inside baseball stuff. If you follow airports closely, you know that the FAA bans airports from using their revenues to pay for any costs not entirely related to airport operations.The idea is to ensure that airports don’t accept FAA grants for things like new runways and then go ahead and use their revenues to fund city projects — stuff not connected to the airport.

LAX got in trouble in part because it was paying the LAPD for work that was not connected with the airport. For example, LAX was funding a piece of the LAPD’s “Police Forgery Unit.” But it wasn’t clear to auditors why this was the case.

“LAPD charged LAWA $968,74222 for services by its Forgery Unit,” the auditors wrote. “This amount represents 20 percent of the unit’s personnel salary. However, LAPD did not provide adequate documentation, such as accounting records or tracking of airport-related and non-airport related time, to show that this charge was actually expended for airport-related work.”

Another problem? LAX paid $216,162 to fund a Lieutenant in the LAPD’s Gang and Narcotics Division. But during the period the Lieutenant was being paid, it wasn’t clear how the work was tied to the airport.

“The lieutenant stated that he conducted both airport and non-airport work, and LAPD charged the airport one-third of the lieutenant’s salary to the airport,” the audit stated. “However, according to division representatives, the basis of this rate is unknown, and the time spent on airport-related work is not tracked. As a result, the documentation does not support that the lieutenant spent one-third of his time for the benefit of the airport.

Remember, Los Angeles World Airports has its own police force, separate from the LAPD. So LAX is not only supporting its own police, but also paying for LAPD help. Some of this help is needed — the airport police is relatively small — but it’s not clear how much. The DOT doesn’t want LAX paying for any police it doesn’t need.

Here’s the full audit. Please let me know in the comments section if you see anything that is particularly interesting?

Lax Audit

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Pointing a laser at an airplane? The FBI says it will arrest you.

As part of a crackdown against people who point lasers at airplanes, the FBI will give out rewards of up to $10,000 for information that leads to an arrest, agency officials said Tuesday at an LAX press conference.

It’s a pilot program and will last only for 60 days at 12 FBI field offices, including Los Angeles.

FBI and FAA officials say there were 3,960 laser strikes reported in 2013, though they say many strikes go unreported. The lasers can temporarily blind pilots, impacting their ability to control planes and helicopters.

“As a pilot, I’m concerned about this issue,” said Chief Ted Sexton of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s homeland security division. “When we’re flying helicopters, it’s about like taking two plates and balancing them as you ride a unicycle. You have to have extreme focus on what you are doing.”

Bill Lewis, assistant director in Charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office, said he hopes the FBI’s short-term campaign will teach the public about the dangers of lasers.

“While there are legitimate reasons for lasers, pointing them at aircraft is not one of them,” Lewis said. “Through this publicity campaign, we are hoping to change the mindset of those who think this this is merely a prank. In reality, the act of pointing a laser at an airplane or at a helicopter can temporarily blind the pilot, during critical phases of operations — during takeoff, during landing — when they have to have complete and very dedicated focus on what they are doing.”

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