Dulles Toll Road operator MWAA faces US Government move to purge board ADDITIONS
By Peter Samuel
2012-08-12: US transport secretary Ray LaHood says he is moving against the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) - which runs the Dulles Toll Road and a new train line as well as airports - saying he has been discussing action to change its membership. MWAA's board is made up of appointees of the governments of Virginia, Maryland and DC as well as the US Government.
The secretary made his comments in an interview with Washington Post reporters, as they write in a piece in Sunday's newspaper.
LaHood is also calling on MWAA to immediately terminate contracts he says have been given to former board members, senior employees and families.
LaHood told the Post MWAA has a corrupt and self-indulgent board of directors. By contrast he defends the new executive director Jack Potter. The previous executive director Charles Snelling killed his wife and then himself with a gun in Fogelsville PA in March (his wife had Altzheimers disease.)
Snelling was a Republican Party activist apparently given the job at a time Republicans controlled the MWAA board.
A report produced by USDOT Inspector General on MWAA for northern Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf in May cites: conflicts of interest, no-bid contracts, secrecy, and extravagance. On extravagance the IG report lists board members buying bottles of wine for $238, dinners at $1,600, a $9,200 airline ticket to a conference in Prague, and a $4,800 first-class ticket to Florida.
The Inspector General counted $220m in uncompeted contracts for the Dulles corridor rail project - which is being majority funded in its second phase with toll revenue bonds on the Dulles Toll Road.
Ray LaHood told the Washington Post the final straw for him was when he found out that Mame Reiley a recently retired board member had been given a $180k/year plus benefits job by the MWAA board. Reiley is a professional fund raiser for the Democratic Party.
ADDITION: Congressman Frank Wolf is introducing legislation in the US House of Representatives to transform MWAA from a 4-jurisdiction authority to an essentially Virginia state entity. The Virginia governor would appoint six out of nine directors of the MWAA board under Wolf's bill. There would be one director each appointed by the US President, the Mayor of Washington DC and the Governor of Maryland.
The MWAA board presently is independent by virtue of numbering 13, with no jurisdictional executive appointing a majority. The Virginia governor presently appoints 5 of 13, the US president 3, the Mayor of DC 3 and the Governor of Maryland 2.
Prospects for Wolf's legislation being adopted are unclear.
LIUNA exec Dennis Martire
The Washington Post reports Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has been attempting to remove MWAA board member Dennis Martire who is alleged to have incurred "tens of thousands of dollars" in questionable expenses charged to the Authority. Martire is Mid Atlantic regional manager of the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA) and was appointed by the last Democrat Governor of Virginia.
Information about this was contained in papers vice chairman of the board and former congressman Tom Davis mislaid at the last board meeting. MWAA staff found the papers which have become the subject of litigation by Martire.
TOLLROADSnews 2012-08-12 ADDITIONS Aug 13 17:00