CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Charlotte is being forced to pay back more than $1.5 million to make things right after oversight problems and risky practices at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
“Hindsight being 20-20,” said Brent Cagle, interim aviation director for the airport. “We got behind in some areas.”
DOCUMENT: Airport reviews summary
The results of a new study only fueled the debate over who should control the airport and run one of Charlotte's biggest economic drivers.
The head of Charlotte's airport told Channel 9 significant changes are coming after independent studies found lax oversight in many areas.
DOCUMENT: Memo from interim Aviation Director Brent Cagle
Eyewitness News reporter Jim Bradley tracked down key players and critics in the ongoing controversy over who should run the studies which cost the airport a quarter-million dollars because of lack of attention to detail.
Cagle said airport management simply didn’t keep up with the airport's rapid growth.
“It's clear that in that growth, some things we didn't pay enough attention to,” Cagle said.
One of the biggest mistakes uncovered was that the airport had severely undervalued how much it was charging the city to rent airport land for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department helicopter hangar and the animal care and control facility.
DOCUMENT: Corrective action plan
The city will now pay the airport $1.6 million in what amounts to back rent that should have been paid years earlier.
The studies also found risky policies involving control of airport contracts and personnel.
Cagle insists there was no fraud or mismanagement at the conclusion of the studies.
“There was no intentional wrongdoing on the city's part,” Cagle said. “In anything we've reviewed so far.”
The reviews of airport operations were ordered last October by City Manager Ron Carlee after state legislators created a new airport commission designed to take control of the airport away from the city.
One of the key players behind that push, Charlottean Stan Campbell, said Thursday, "I don't put much stock in a consultant's report paid for by the city."
The airport and city said they're already putting changes in place to address problems found in the reviews made public Thursday.
Channel 9 asked Cagle, “Are you concerned that the public is going to see that and say maybe the critics were right? Maybe the airport's not being run right?”
“I am concerned about the loss of confidence that this could bring,” Cagle said. “Although my counterpoint to that is that I think over the last year, what we've seen is steady improvements.”
The state appointed airport commission remains tied up in a lawsuit with the city over control at the airport.
Chairman Robert Stolz said he didn't want to talk about the findings in the reviews but did say they underscore the need to get the issue of airport governance resolved soon.
The Federal Aviation Administration has to sign off on some of those recommendations while the city council will have to approve the payback of the $1.6 million related to under-charged rent at the airport that must be paid off by Oct. 1.
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