Virginia officials knew about Dulles board insider contract

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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

Top officials who criticized an insider deal at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to give a board member a big consulting contract knew about the contract beforehand, The Washington Examiner has learned.

Officials in charge of the $6 billion Dulles Rail project told top Virginia lawmakers early this year that they were planning to hire Mame Reiley after she resigned from the board for health reasons on Feb. 15, multiple sources have told The Examiner. Reiley is battling breast cancer. But the Virginia officials involved insist they were not told about Reiley's $180,000 salary or that she would be working as a "senior adviser."

Reiley's hiring was the impetus for a firestorm of criticism that rained down on the airports authority last week. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, along with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and D.C. Mayor Vince Gray, rebuked the authority and ordered it to clean house. Former congressman and MWAA board member Tom Davis and Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., also joined the chorus calling for reform at the airports board.

But Wolf, Davis and Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton knew about the job before LaHood denounced it.

And the airports authority also told McDonnell that they were hiring Reiley, a source familiar with the situation told The Examiner.

"We were informed that they were going to do something for her, that she didn't have much longer, and that she didn't have health insurance. But we were never told of the type of the job or the salary. All of this caught us by surprise, as well as everyone else," Connaughton said. "We weren't asked; we were informed."

But Connaughton said he didn't know if the governor knew about the job. A spokesman for McDonnell pointed a reporter to Connaughton for comment.

Wolf also knew about the job.

"We were told she was being offered a job because of her failing health. We were completely unaware of her salary and position until we read it the paper," Wolf's chief of staff, Dan Scandling, said.

Davis also knew, and in fact was the first to mention a job to Reiley, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Davis refused to comment for this article, but said in an earlier interview that he would not call for Reiley to be fired because of her health issues.

"Mr. LaHood did not have all the facts at the time he spoke," he told The Examiner.

Airports officials promised to cancel insider contracts and tighten ethics policies after LaHood's rebuke. But whether to fire employees who are former board members, including Reiley, will be a topic for the authority's next meeting Sept. 5, an airports official said.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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