Airports board adopts new travel policy

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Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board adopted new travel rules Wednesday after criticism from outsiders and a federal inspector general about lavish spending in exotic locales on annual travel budgets reaching as high as $260,000.

Board members once spent $4,800 on three dinners in Hawaii and $9,200 on a last-minute airplane ticket to Prague.

The new rules require all board members to receive advance approval for trips from the board chairman. The new policy also specifies costs for which airports board members can be reimbursed: mileage, standard parking, taxi fares, car rentals, Internet, conference fees, lodging, meals, standard hotel rooms and tips. Alcoholic beverages are not reimbursable.

Board members must fly economy-class for domestic flights, but business class is allowed for international travel, according to the new guidelines.

Some board members objected to the $71 per-day limit for meals and other incidental expenses.

"Our lifestyle is not based on a government employee lifestyle," said board member Shirley Robinson Hall, a D.C. appointee. "We should be more realistic about how people around this table spend money."

The policy does not specifically preclude trips like those of Dennis Martire, who was removed from the board by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in part for his expensive business-class trips overseas with a female companion. Martire is fighting his removal in court.

One board member, federal appointee Bob Brown, voted against the new policy, saying he didn't want to have to get approval for every trip he makes to meet airport officials and contractors.

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