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Airports board hits turbulence -- often

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Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley

Months of political turmoil have shadowed the board overseeing the $6 billion Dulles Rail project.

Dust-ups involving the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority include:

• A federal inspector general issued a report last month questioning the airports authority board's spending habits -- including $4,800 for three dinners in Hawaii, $238 for two bottles of wine, $9,200 for a last-minute plane ticket to Prague -- as well as its lax ethics policies, frequent use of closed-door sessions and questionable contracting practices. Investigators found that two-thirds of contracts over $200,000 were issued without competitive bids between 2009 and 2011.

• The airports board was forced to back down earlier this month from its support for a controversial labor provision that opponents claimed favored labor unions. State and local officials insisted the authority drop the agreement. The board refused for months to give in until the state threatened to withhold $150 million in funding.

• Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell ordered the removal of Dennis Martire, a top union officer, from the authority last week, saying Martire's union affiliation created a conflict of interest and his lavish conference trips undermined public trust. Martire responded by suing McDonnell for unlawfully interfering in airport business.

- Liz Essley

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