LaHood, governors, Gray send rebuke to airports board

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Photo - (Examiner file photo)
(Examiner file photo)
Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley

Federal, state and District officials on Tuesday called on the board overseeing the $6 billion Dulles Rail project to fire any former board members to whom it gave jobs in what those officials said is a much needed effort to restore public trust in the board.

"We are outraged by ongoing reports describing questionable dealings, including the award of numerous lucrative no-bid contracts to former board members and employees and the employment of former board members," the officials said in a letter to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. "The board needs to restore the confidence of its appointing officials and the public."

The letter, signed by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, outlines a series of reforms the authority must undertake to restore public confidence in its operations.

The letter is a reaction to a string of controversies involving the board, including a series of no-bid contracts the board awarded to its former members and the $180,000-a-year job it gave a board member, Mame Reiley, who had resigned for health reasons, as first reported by The Washington Examiner.

"The board must undertake all of these actions and more if it is to regain the trust of the public we all serve," the letter said. "Your candor and wholehearted implementation of these changes is the only acceptable course of action."

The letter comes just after Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., announced legislation that would overhaul the board and give Virginia control of it. Wolf has called the airports board "dysfunctional."

The airports board has said that it is already working to tighten its ethics policies and become more transparent.

The airports authority issued a statement Tuesday saying it is already enacting widespread changes and will consider a new ethics policy at a meeting Sept. 5. The authority also said it is ending contracting relationships with former board members.

"We acknowledge the concerns of the Secretary of Transportation, our elected officials and others, and we are committed to restoring public trust wherever it is lost," said the statement from airports board chairman Michael Curto and CEO Jack Potter.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner