The agency managing the construction of the $5.5 billion Silver Line rail project in Northern Virginia spent more than a million dollars in legal fees in two lawsuits defending one of its board members in a battle with Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.
In a confidential memo obtained by WAMU 88.5, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) board details the $1.5 million in legal fees spent defending Dennis Martire, a labor union official who agreed to resign from the MWAA board of directors in September.
In June the McDonnell administration tried to oust Martire from the board. He sued to keep his seat, and the airports authority agreed to reimburse his legal expenses. He was reimbursed $855,000, according to the memo.
In an interview with WAMU, Martire said he was entitled to legal assistance under MWAA policy.
“We have an indemnification policy that every board member has the right to due process and every board member has the right to face their accusers if you are accused of anything,” said Martire, who drew intense criticism after it was revealed he had spent $38,000 traveling to five conferences while MWAA director.
In his view, however, Martire was targeted for political reasons: the McDonnell administration wanted greater control of the MWAA board.
“The governor was removing me for booking a plane ticket two weeks before a trip, and we spent $1.5 million dollars of MWAA money to defend that case. It's ludicrous,” Martire said. “There is a movement afoot to make it an all-Virginia board. There is a movement afoot to create a Republican-dominated board.”
The confidential memo says the airports authority also spent $360,000 to defend itself and one of its top officials, and nearly $200,000 was spent defending three other board members – Rusty Conner, Todd Stottlemyer, and former Va. Congressman Tom Davis – who were subpoenaed during the litigation.
MWAA chief counsel Phil Sunderland did not return multiple calls seeking comment.
MWAA Legal Fees