Dulles Rail board awards contracts to 2 insiders

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Photo - The under-construction Silver Line. (Examiner file photo)
The under-construction Silver Line. (Examiner file photo)
Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley

The board overseeing the $6 billion Dulles Rail project hired two former board members to act as lobbyists even though the authority already has two full-time staff members handling its government relations, The Washington Examiner has learned.

Former state Sen. Robert Calhoun earned between $24,000 and $49,000 a year to work as a lobbyist for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority between 2006 and 2011, earning a total of $175,000 from a board on which he once served, his lobbyist disclosure forms show. Calhoun, who provides "professional government relations, legal and consulting services" primarily at the state level, is expected to earn another $28,500 this year, the authority said.

Republican operative and former authority board member J. Kenneth Klinge also works as a lobbyist under contract to the authority, earning more than $105,000 between 2006 and 2011. Klinge, who provides "professional government relations and consulting services" at the local, state and federal levels, is expected to earn another $48,500 in 2012, the authority said.

The authority, already under fire from state and federal officials critical of its spending habits and no-bid contracts it awards to authority insiders, hired Calhoun and Klinge as lobbyist after they left its board of directors even though the authority already has full-time lobbyists on staff.

"The airports authority has two full-time government relations staff members," spokesman Rob Yingling said. "As additional services are needed, the government relations staff contracts with consultants, who monitor the legislative sessions and provide important facts to legislators."

Calhoun, an Alexandria Republican and former member of the state Senate's ethics advisory panel, defended his consulting contract with the authority.

"The board sets the rules; I don't set them," Calhoun said. "I'm primarily valuable to them as being a former member of the legislature. And unlike some of the folks you may be writing about, I actually know what I'm doing."

The contracts awarded to Calhoun and Klinge are the latest insider deals the authority has struck with departing board members and employees.

Mame Reiley, who represented Virginia on the airport board, resigned for health reasons earlier this year and the next day was hired as a senior adviser to the authority's top executive with an annual salary of $180,000 plus benefits.

Former board member Leonard Manning was awarded a $42,000 no-bid contract to help import Ethiopian flowers to Washington Dulles International Airport, and former board secretary Gregory Wolfe was paid at least $197,000 for advice on ethics and legal issues.

An accounting firm owned by former authority board member Jeffrey Thompson received nearly $1 million in authority work and the law firm of board Chairman Michael Curto's wife was awarded a $100,000 contract.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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