Airports board faces tangle of legal fees

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Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley

The airports authority board overseeing the $6 billion Dulles Rail project is due to decide Wednesday how much it will pay for legal bills for board member Dennis Martire, who is battling Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in court after the governor ousted Martire from the board.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has so far paid $75,000 for Martire's legal costs, but the authority didn't have any information about outstanding legal bills. Martire has hired at least two law firms to defend himself. Board member Tom Davis cautioned other members that Martire's bills were "high and going higher."

(Read live updates from the Wednesday morning board meeting)

The authority's own rules provide for financial assistance to board members. But Davis and others say those rules shouldn't apply to Martire, since the question in the courts is whether Martire is still a board member or not. Others defended Martire.

"Directors are entitled to indemnification. I think that that's appropriate," said board member Bob Brown. "Denny Martire didn't start this fight. He's been mercilessly vilified in the newspapers, mostly anonymously by members of this board for a year."

The airports authority may also have to pay legal bills for at least six other board members who have been subpoenaed in Martire's case. Three of those members have already submitted legal bills to the authority.

It is unclear how much Martire's legal challenge is costing Virginia.

"The airports authority is basically paying lawyers to subpoena other board members, who then have to have attorneys to defend themselves in the scope of the discovery," Davis told The Washington Examiner earlier this year. "They're hiring attorneys to sue other board members. ... It's just crazy."

The law firm that employs board member Rusty Conner, DLA Piper, is representing Conner, Davis and board member Todd Stottlemeyer in answering the subpoenas, sources said.

Brown said that was a conflict of interest for Conner, "no matter how many pages long the letter he writes is explaining how he's not going to get any of that money. ... I just think it's a huge conflict."

Conner did not respond to requests for comment.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner