The town of East Hampton, New York, cannot divert airport revenue to pay for legal fees stemming from its unsuccessful effort to impose access restrictions at East Hampton Airport (HTO), said the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) in an appeal to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The town of East Hampton hiked landing fees at HTO to generate revenue to cover the legal fees associated with defending the restrictions.
The appeal comes in response to a preliminary FAA decision that declined to address the misappropriation of airport funds, a course of action that NBAA maintains is contrary to agency precedent, is bad policy, and is at odds with congressional instructions.
As part of its appeal, representatives from the NBAA wrote, “There should be no doubt that the airport dollars spent by the town in litigation seeking to perpetuate the illegal restrictions constituted an improper use of airport revenue.
“This is not a case in which an airport sponsor was called upon to mount a defense to an unanticipated agency or court challenge.
“The town explicitly adopted an anti-airport agenda, declined to utilize FAA administrative procedures and represented to its taxpayers that – even though litigation would almost inevitably result from its campaign – the consequences would be cost- and risk-free.
“In the meantime, the airport has been starved of needed improvements that could have been funded with those diverted funds. The town now should be required to make HTO whole.”
Commenting on the situation, NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen said, “While East Hampton apparently has spent millions of dollars over the past several years in its attempts to impose access restrictions that the federal courts concluded violated federal requirements, the FAA decision puts at risk far more than the dollars currently at stake at HTO.
“The decision could jeopardize the integrity of the national system of airports by providing the option for sponsors across the country to utilize airport revenue in support of efforts to restrict or shutter airports, rather than to grow and improve them as intended by the statute. It is critically important that the agency carefully consider the far-reaching implications of the preliminary ruling being appealed.”