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Dulles board 'funding our own destruction'

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Photo - The under-construction Dulles Rail line. (Examiner file photo)
The under-construction Dulles Rail line. (Examiner file photo)
Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley

The refusal of the regional airports authority to deal quickly and publicly with recent controversies could lead to the complete demise of the board overseeing the $6 billion Dulles Rail project, the Dulles Toll Road and two airports, three board members warned in a letter to their chairman.

"The board's unwillingness to address these issues may well lead to the end of [the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority] as we currently know it," the three members, Tom Davis, Frank Conner and Todd Stottlemeyer, wrote. "We have little or no moral authority or credibility in managing the Dulles Rail Project as a board or in establishing toll rates for those who will be using the Dulles Toll Road."

The three board members, all representing Virginia, urged authority Chairman Michael Curto to issue a formal, written response to reports faulting the authority for lax ethics rules, lavish spending on board member travel and questionable contracting practices.

They urged the chairman to develop a stringent conflict of interest policy that would prevent insider perks like the no-bid contracts to former board members that were first disclosed by The Washington Examiner. They also suggested that the board limit how much it pays to defend Dennis Martire, a board member and union executive who is suing to keep his seat after Gov. Bob McDonnell ousted him.

"Mr. Martire is now using his indemnification as a sword, racking up legal costs likely already in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and likely to go much higher," the letter warned. "MWAA is currently paying the bill for all of this. We are in essence funding our own destruction."

The letter criticized Martire's lawyers for issuing wide-ranging subpoenas for notes between many high-ranking Virginia officials, including Davis, McDonnell and members of the Virginia General Assembly that have "inappropriately chilled" communication between the board and the state.

Martire did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Hesaid earlier that McDonnell inappropriately removed him from the board for partisan reasons.

The letter cited U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's decision to get involved in reforming the authority following a series of disclosures in The Washington Examiner about insider deals, including a $180,000 job given to former board member Mame Reiley a day after she resigned for health reasons

The board members' letter was first reported by The Washington Post.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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