Dulles Toll Road operator MWAA reprimanded as US sectrans, Md Govn'r, DC mayor sign on to Virginia letter
By Peter Samuel
2012-08-15: The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) operator of the Dulles Toll Road this week has managed to provoke a bipartisan, 4-parent scolding and demand for better behavior by the children. 'Parents' Ray LaHood US secretary of transportation, Martin O'Malley, governor of Maryland and Vincent Gray, mayor of Washington DC signed on to a fierce letter to the 'kids' of their MWAA board.
The letter was drafted largely by northern Virginia congressman Frank Wolf and Virginia governor Bob McDonnell.
The letter signers are responsible for the 'children' of MWAA - designating them as representatives of their four government jurisdictions in the 13-child nursery that is the MWAA board of directors - US sectrans LaHood (3), MD gov O'Malley (2), DC mayor Gray (3), and VA gov McDonnell (5).
Lori Artani and Mary Pat Flaherty of the Washington Post got the scoop yesterday publishing a copy of the 2-page letter dated August 14 which said there were "serious doubts about the ability of the Board to competently promote, protect and manage airports and other transportation activities."
It said the signers were "gravely concerned at the lack of accountability, transparency, and sound judgment that has come to light regarding the Board's recent activities." They referred to the USDOT Inspector General's report on "nepotism," the letting of many no-bid contracts, and board members participating in decisions in which they have conflicts of interest.
"We are outraged by ongoing reports describing questionable dealings, including the award of numerous lucrative no-bid contracts to former board members and employees and the employment of former board members."
The letter says the four 'parents' expect the 'kids' to grant the USDOT's recently appointed 'Federal Accountability Officer' (aunty?) full access to personnel and documents of the authority and to inform her of and allow her presence at "all board of directors' meetings. including executive sessions."
They add: "With her guidance you must upgrade your procurement and travel policies, and procedures, ethics code, and bylaws, bringing them in line with the best federal practices."
It calls for immediate action to, among other things:
- "terminate all existing contracts with former board members and former employees that were not competitively bid"
- "terminate all existing employment relationships with former board members"
- strengthen the ethics code to guard against conflicts of interest
- tighten travel procedures
- have open board meetings with announcements and agenda posted, then minutes published on the MWAA website
Three board members agree.
Virginia delegates to the MWAA board Tom Davis, Frank Conner and Todd Stotlemeyer said in a letter to the MWAA chairman that the board at meetings spends "very little time on the real business of the Authority" and all its time on on trivialities.
They wrote:"(W)e have little or no moral authority or credibility in managing the Dulles Rail Project."
What with the union boss pushing his union preference and Mame Reiley, a Democrat fundraiser insisting on the undergrounding of a Dulles Airport rail station - despite an additional $300m cost plus the furore over the need to increase Dulles tolls four or five-fold to pay for all the rail expense, there has been little attention given to the two airports the authority was set up to manage.
Instead MWAA is engaged in a costly and controversial development of suburban transport - the tollroad and the Metro Silver Line.
Board chair Curto responds quickly
Michael Curto board chairman and CEO John Potter quickly responded to the Hood-McDonnell, O'Malley, Gray letter, saying: "We acknowledge the concerns of the Secretary of Transportation, our elected officials and others, and we are committed to restoring public trust wherever it is lost and to earning and assuring the confidence of the people we serve."
They say they have:
- ended or are in process of ending all services contracts with former board members and will re-procure with competitive bidding
- stopped international travel for board members
- set strict new rules for limiting 'executive sessions,' will post meeting agendas and publish minutes
- established a compliance group to police Authority rules
- put in place stricter rules about conflict of interest, employment of retired employees an board members, disclosure of interest
The Washington Examiner reports the following abuses:
-Mame Reiley: a Democrat Party fundraiser resigned from the board for health reasons in February, was hired a day later as a "senior adviser" at $180,000 a year plus benefits, no indication of what she does for the salary
- Jeffrey Thompson: linked to an illicit shadow campaign that benefited DC Mayor Vincent Gray in 2010, getting nearly $1 million in MWAA contracts after he left the board
- Bob Calhoun: a former state senator has earned $175,000 as a lobbyist for the authority
- Kenneth Klinge: a Republican operative earned more than $105,000 as a lobbyist for the authority
- Leonard Manning: awarded a $42,000 no-bid contract to import flowers from Ethiopia
- Gregory Wolfe: a former board secretary advises the board on "ethics issues" under a series of contracts, including one for $197,000
Gloss over union boss on board pushing his union preference agenda
The letters make no direct mention of the blatant and prolonged conflict of interest in having had Dennis Martire, an active senior officer of the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA) as a MWAA board member. Far from recusing himself Martire was, reportedly, the lead advocate on the board of union-only provisions in Dulles Rail RFPs, provisions which contravene the law of Virginia where the Authority operates, inflate the costs of its projects, enlarge its debt, and were to the direct benefit of the LiUNA union only.
Only under a threat from the McDonnell administration to withdraw all state money from phase 2 of MWAA's near-$6 billion Dulles train line project and a threat by Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli to prosecute MWAA for discriminatory union-only contracting did the MWAA board back down. It belatedly agreed to go with non-discriminatory RFPs for stage 2 of the Dulles rail line.
Martire was also the champion of junkets at MWAA expense, critics claim, citing in particular a $9,200 first class air ticket he charged to MWAA to take a trip to Prague, Czech Republic. He is suing Virginia governor Bob McDonnell for wrongful dismissal from the MWAA board earlier this summer.
Martire was an appointee of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (Dem) (Jan 2006 to Jan 2010) and Reiley was appointed by a predecessor Governor Mark Warner. (CORRECTION)
copy of the 4 'parents' letter: