FAA won’t recognize new Nashville airport board until the state and city resolve the lawsuit

The FAA issued a letter as the new board was set to go into effect on July 1

By: - June 27, 2023 1:13 pm
Southwest Air planes parked at Nashville International Airport. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Southwest Air planes parked at Nashville International Airport. (Photo: John Partipilo)

The Federal Aviation Administration has informed Tennessee and Nashville officials it will continue to recognize the current airport board until a court rules on a pending lawsuit over its makeup.

In a letter sent the Nashville airport authority, the FAA cited the uncertainty around lawsuit over as a reason to keep recognizing the status quo.

“The FAA takes no position regarding the validity of the legislation or on the issues presented in the litigation,” the letter said. “To avoid this uncertainty, please be advised that the FAA will continue to recognize the existing board until such time as the chancery court rules on the issue.

Earlier this year, state lawmakers passed legislation to remake the Metro Nashville Airport Authority board, giving state leaders six appointments on a new eight-person board. The Nashville mayor gets the final two appointments.

Gov. Bill Lee appointed economic and community development commissioner Stuart McWhorter and developer Tony Giarratana to the new board.

Lee said until the suit is settled, “it’s up to the FAA” on what board they recognize.

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, appointed Sen. Jack Johnson, R-Franklin, and H.G. Realty Hill Realty CEO Jimmy Granbery, who is already an airport board member.

House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, appointed businessman Bobby Joslin, who’s already on the board,  and Masami Tyson, the former global director of foreign investman and trade for the state. Nashville Mayor John Cooper hasn’t released his appointments to the new board.

“The FAA is free to ‘recognize’ whomever they wish but if they actually want to conduct business with the authority there will be only one legal way to do so,” said Adam Kleinheider, McNally’s spokesperson. “On July 1, there will be one board in existence and Lt. Governor McNally has made his appointments to it.”

Currently, the board has seven members, all appointed by the Nashville mayor.

The Metro Nashville Legal Department sued the state in June to stop the law from going into effect on the grounds that it violated the city’s right to govern itself without state interference.

This is the third lawsuit filed this year by the city’s legal department to block a state law for interfering in Nashville’s governance.

During this year’s legislative session, the state’s airport takeover was one of six pieces of legislation that state lawmakers passed specifically targeting Metro Nashville.

The state laws are part of an escalation of tension between the Republican-run state government and its Democratic-led capitol city.

The latest dispute started when the state broke up the only Democratic-held U.S. House seat in Nashville in early 2022. The Metro Nashville Council members then blocked the city from hosting the 2024 Republican National Convention in the summer of 2022.

Sam Stockard contributed to this report. This story was updated at 5 p.m.

FAA response to Metro Nashville and MNAA (Griffin)

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Adam Friedman
Adam Friedman

Adam Friedman is a reporter with the Tennessee Lookout. He has a particular love for data and using numbers to explain all kinds of topics. If you have a story idea, he'd love to hear it. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 615-249-8509.