Dulles board official resigns ahead of federal report on agency

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Photo - The under-construction Dulles Rail line. (Examiner file photo)
The under-construction Dulles Rail line. (Examiner file photo)
Local,Transportation,Liz Essley

A top official with the embattled airports authority announced his retirement Wednesday, the day before federal investigators are scheduled to release a report that blames him for much of the nepotism that plagues the agency in charge of the $6 billion Dulles Rail project, sources told The Washington Examiner.

The federal inspector general's report scheduled to be released Thursday is expected to show that employees at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority may have benefitted personally from contracts they steered toward particular companies. It is also expected to show that the hiring of friends and relatives of authority officials was far more widespread than previously believed, sources told The Examiner.

While the report likely won't name names, it is expected to lay much of the blame for the agency's problems on Arl Williams, the vice president of human resources, whose retirement was announced Wednesday. The authority told its employees that Williams was stepping down on Nov. 16 after 14 years with the agency, and suggested his departure was related to health problems.

Efforts to contact Williams Wednesday were unsuccessful.

In a memo sent to employees late Wednesday, authority CEO Jack Potter warned that the inspector general's report due out on Thursday was likely to go beyond the problems identified in an interim report that investigators released in May. That interim report showed that the authority had awarded contracts worth more than $220 million with only limited bidding competition.

"I expect [the report] will raise new concerns, primarily in our Procurement and Human Resources practices," Potter wrote. "We will look very closely into any new matters raised by the report and determine how to address them."

In addition to the inspector general's investigation, the FBI is looking into possible criminal activity in the authority's awarding of contracts, sources told The Examiner. Officials from the authority confirmed last week that they had been subpoenaed by the FBI.

The airports authority has not commented on the inspector general's investigation, saying it still hasn't reviewed the inspector's report.

The authority has been under fire from public officials for months, following a series of disagreements over the Metrorail project and findings in the inspector general's interim report that showed that authority officials spent lavishly on their own travel and accommodations. Officials have also cited a series of reports in The Washington Examiner about insider deals at the authority, including a $180,000 job given to a board member the day after she resigned for health reasons.

Airports officials have promised to clean house and passed new ethics and travel rules.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner