Feds found fault with MWAA

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Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley

The authority in charge of building the Dulles Rail project was cited by federal investigators for wasteful spending, lax ethics rules and questionable contracting practices. Among investigators' findings:

• Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board members recently racked up inappropriate expenses, including $4,800 for three Hawaiian dinners, $238 for two bottles of wine and $9,200 for a last-minute airline ticket to Prague.

• A board member recommended the law firm where his wife is employed for a $100,000 contract. The firm got the contract.

• Board members charged the authority for at least six first-class airline tickets one year without proper authorization.

• The authority's financial disclosure requirements are too weak to identify all potential conflicts of interest.

• The authority shrouded its activity with "an inappropriate use of closed sessions." Even a recent discussion of enhancing transparency was closed to the public.

• The authority awarded about $6 million in no-bid contracts over two and a half years, even though none of the contracts fell under special rules allowing limited competition.

• The airports authority never fixed contracting problems pointed out in 2002 by federal auditors.

Airports authority leaders promised last week to address those concerns. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood said he'd appoint someone to monitor the authority's efforts.

- By Liz Essley

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