Slowly but surely, Governor Bob McDonnell is establishing more authority over the unruly Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board of directors. Dennis L. Martire, a thorn in McDonnell’s side for more than a year, has announced his resignation from board effective October 17 in a deal reached with the administration.
Said McDonnell in a press release: “I am pleased that all parties agreed to immediately stop the litigation and pursue dismissal of Martire’s lawsuit and MWAA’s action, both with prejudice. We are happy to put this unnecessary and expensive distraction behind us and look forward to continuing to improve the accountability of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. … I will ensure that all of my appointed board members are dedicated to finding ways to improve efficiency, cost control, and customer service for all our citizens.”
Martire, a senior executive in the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA), had been appointed by former Gov. Tim Kaine. Mame Reiley, an appointee of former Gov. Mark Warner, also resigned recently, for medical reasons. After her departure, a board decision to award her a three-year consulting contract paying $180,000 a year ignited a firestorm of controversy. Both Reiley and Martire had worked at cross-purposes with the McDonnell administration by pushing proposals that would have run up the cost of the estimated $2.8 billion METRO project.
The union executive reportedly had hired two law firms and run up a $75,000 bill to block Governor Bob McDonnell’s attempt to oust him on the grounds that he had improperly billed MWAA thousands of dollars for a European junket. Martire also had been a thorn in the administration’s side, working behind the scenes to get MWAA to make a union Project Labor Agreement (PLA) a requirement for any company bidding on Phase 2 of the Rail-to-Dulles project. Critics say the measure could have added hundreds of millions of dollars to the cost while feathering the union’s nest.
“While I remain confident about the litigation in which I was involved, there are reasons why resolving those lawsuits was worthwhile,” Martire told the board, according to an MWAA press release. “First, the lawsuits threatened to be disproportionately expensive for MWAA, for me personally and for the taxpayers of Virginia. Second, the Authority needs the litigation resolved so that it can continue with the important work that it does. Operating Reagan and Dulles airports and overseeing the Silver Line construction are among the most important jobs in the region.”
In its Wednesday meeting the MWAA board also approved a new ethics policy that covers travel policy, sole-source contracting and other ethical issues. Said Chairman Michael Curto: “This policy is designed to keep us free of conflicts of interests, so the public can be assured that our decisions are based on the best interests of the Authority and the region we serve.”
The next milestone will be the Washington City Council’s decision either to approve or deny an amendment to the bi-state compact governing MWAA that would increase board representation.
That measure, backed by Rep. Frank Wolf, R-10, would give Virginia two additional seats on the board, while giving one more each to Maryland and Washington, D.C. The impact would be mostly symbolic, boosting Virginia’s representation only slightly: from 38.5% of the representation to 41.2%. Although that bill was passed into law by Congress, it has no legal effect until Virginia and Washington both approve it. Meanwhile, Wolf has introduced a second measure to shrink the size of the board and give Virginia an outright majority.