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Opinion

Examiner Local Editorial: Corrupt MWAA hasn't changed a bit

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Opinion,Local Editorial

Hundreds of newly released documents detail lavish spending and bloated expense accounts submitted by at least four top executives of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority between July 2011 and October 2012. Obtained by the Washington Post under the Freedom of Information Act, the documents detail expense accounts that topped $10,000, including one $12,000 flight by a vice president purchased a week before an industry conference, an event which is usually planned months or even years in advance. Other reimbursed expenditures included platters of oysters in New Orleans and $13.50 for a pint of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia ice cream.

Nobody has been fired for milking the system or even for violating MWAA policies by booking hotels and airfare before their trips were approved or for failing to produce receipts for meals and other expenses.

MWAA board members did not object either because they were doing the same thing: booking $9,200 flights to Prague, indulging in lavish lobster and foie gras dinners in Hawaii and shelling out $133 of the authority's money for a single bottle of cabernet. The board is the primary source of the corrosive culture of entitlement that has spread like a cancer throughout the authority.

Following a scathing audit last year by the U.S. Department of Transportation's inspector general, new travel and expense account policies are now in effect for MWAA board members and employees alike. But practically all of the same people whose questionable behavior triggered the audit in the first place are still there. And despite protestations to the contrary, they're still covering things up. For example, MWAA refused to release expense records for the first six months of 2011, telling the Post that they were stored "off-site" and demanding $1,300 to retrieve them.

A federal lawsuit filed last November in Alexandria's U.S. District Court by former MWAA police Officer Isabel Smeal alleges that the 14-year veteran was fired after reporting violations of the authority's anti-nepotism and sexual harassment policies, while MWAA ignored "more egregious misconduct such as time card fraud and the negligent misplacement of a loaded gun in a public restroom."

An MWAA employee allegedly left a loaded gun in a public restroom at one of the two Washington-area airports that the authority manages, and this is the way the public finds out about it?

Personnel is indeed policy. Despite all the reform talk at MWAA, nothing has changed.

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