Airports board fires insider from $180k-a-year job

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Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley

The regional airports board announced Wednesday it would fire a former board member given a $180,000-per-year job -- a job that was first revealed by The Washington Examiner and earned a public rebuke from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority officials said Mame Reiley would no longer work for the authority as of Oct. 1 and would receive her one-year severance payment of $180,000.

The authority oversees Washington Dulles International and Ronald Reagan Washington National airports, as well as the $6 billion Dulles Rail project.

Reiley got the job -- and a five-year contract with a one-year severance package -- Feb. 16, the day after she resigned from the board for health reasons. The former chairwoman of the board, who was first appointed to the board in 2002, has breast cancer.

The airports board made the announcement during a contentious meeting rife with regional disputes and dirty laundry, with one board member accusing others of running a "shadow board" and an "old boys' network."

Board member and D.C. representative Shirley Robinson Hall said she also suspected inappropriate motives for hiring Reiley.

"It was mentioned to me on several occasions that the governor of Virginia did not want Mame Reileyon the board anymore," she said.

Fellow board member and Maryland appointee Richard Carter also voiced discomfort with how Reiley was hired.

"Anybody looking at this would say she had been paid off," he said.

But the board's chairman and vice chairman brushed aside Hall's allegations.

"I never know what she's talking about," said Vice Chairman Tom Davis, a Virginia appointee.

The public disputes came as the board, which has been described by elected officials as "dysfunctional," struggled to right itself with new ethics and travel policies.

The board adopted the new travel policy over some members' objections and will vote on the new ethics policy Sept. 19 in an attempt to address a blistering inspector general's report and LaHood's rebuke.

But the new rules proved contentious as well, with board members saying the draft ethics policy -- which was not made available to the public but was said to increase financial disclosure, recusal, anti-nepotism and other rules -- was "draconian" and a "straitjacket."

"In all candor, every person around this board would be in violation of this policy. This is a federal town, c'mon. What the hell?" said board member H.R. Crawford.

Board Counsel Gregory Wolfe agreed.

"There are many things in here that have been violated by directors in the past," he said in a written statement that was read into the record.

Directors criticized nepotism rules that would prohibit recommending relatives for jobs; at least four board members recommended younger relatives for summer positions at the authority.

"You effectively eliminated our summer intern program," board member Warner Session told an ethics consultant. "We're a town built on relationships, where everybody knows somebody."

Airports board Chairman Michael Curto urged the public to note the board's improvement.

"While it is true that the authority has made its share of mistakes, and there are a number of issues that have yet to be adequately addressed, I think our harshest critics would also acknowledge that we have made significant progress," he said.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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