Dulles board members defend one insider deal

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Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley

Three members of the board overseeing the $6 billion Dulles Rail project called on their colleagues to change the way the troubled board does business, even though all three support maintaining at least one insider deal that benefits a fellow Virginian.

The three members -- Tom Davis, Frank Conner and Todd Stottlemeyer, all from Virginia -- warned that the very existence of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority could be threatened if those running it don't make wholesale changes in the way they spend money and award contracts, including eliminating the no-bid contracts the authority routinely awarded to former board members.

"The board's unwillingness to address these issues may well lead to the end of [the authority] as we currently know it," the trio wrote to board Chairman Michael Curto. "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."

But the three members told The Washington Examiner that while they are demanding tighter spending, contracting and ethics rules, they want to preserve one of the most controversial insider deals struck by the board: the full-time job awarded to former board member Mame Reiley, of Virginia. A day after Reiley resigned from the authority for health reasons in February, she was hired by the authority as a $180,000-a-year adviser with full benefits.

The authority announced Tuesday that it was going to cancel all contracts with former board members, but said it would maintain the employment contract with Reiley.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood cited The Examiner's disclosure of Reiley's contract as a chief reason he assigned someone from his office to oversee changes at the airports authority. Virginia officials said Reiley's lucrative deal helped prompt their push for legislation that would completely restructure the regional authority and put Virginia in charge of it.

But Davis, the board's vice chairman, said Wednesday that Reiley shouldn't be fired.

"I think she has an employment contract. I don't think you can undo it," Davis told The Examiner. "She's got terminal cancer. ... Nobody's that heartless."

LaHood, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray all demanded in a letter Tuesday that the board fire all former members now working for it.

While defending Reiley, Davis and the others said in the letter that the authority should limit how much it pays to legally defend Dennis Martire, a board member and union executive who is suing to keep his seat after McDonnell ousted him. In defending himself, Martire is increasing tensions between the state and the board, and that could further hurt the authority, they said.

"MWAA is currently paying the bill for all of this," they wrote. "We are in essence funding our own destruction."

Martire did not return calls seeking comment. He said earlier that McDonnell inappropriately removed him from the board for partisan reasons.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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