ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — The board that governs Washington's two major airports took steps Wednesday to address complaints of cronyism and lavish spending by terminating a six-figure employment contract for a former board member and tightening its internal travel policies.
The actions Wednesday by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority come in the wake of a federal audit and criticism by federal and Virginia officials about its inner workings. The board has faced added scrutiny in recent years for its oversight of a $6 billion extension of the region's Metrorail system to Dulles International Airport.
After Wednesday's board meeting, MWAA President and CEO Jack Potter said the authority terminated a five-year contract as a senior adviser — at $180,000 a year — that had been given to former board Mame Reiley shortly after she left for health reasons.
Potter said Reiley had done valuable work for the board in helping explore ways to generate revenue from undeveloped land on airport property. But he acknowledged that hiring her was a mistake, especially since he didn't consult the board in doing so. A new ethics policy being developed for the authority would ban such contracts for former board members for two years after leaving the board.
"In hindsight it was a lapse in judgment on my part," Potter told the board.
Reiley will receive a year's worth of severance pay, as called for in her contract.
Also Wednesday, the board voted to overhaul its travel policies in the wake of a federal audit earlier this year that questioned lavish spending by board members. The audit, requested by MWAA board critic Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., criticized the board for awarding contracts without competition. It also cited excessive spending by some board members, including a $9,200 plane ticket to Prague and a $4,800 dinner bill over three nights for board members and guests on a Hawaii trip.