Kate Hinds is an Associate Producer for WNYC News. She also reports for WNYC and Transportation Nation, a public radio reporting project that combines the work of multiple newsrooms to provide coverage of how we build, rebuild and get around the nation.
BREAKING: Ray LaHood Condemns DC Airports Authority Board: "We Are Outraged"
Tuesday, August 14, 2012 - 11:03 AM
(UPDATED WITH MWAA RESPONSE) The head of the U.S. Department of Transportation says the board controlling the Silver Line is out of control and "in desperate need of reform."
Ray LaHood has sent a blistering letter to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority questioning the board's ethics and laying out steps the authority must take to get in line. Co-signed by the governors of Virginia and Maryland, as well as the mayor of D.C., the letter is an unflinching condemnation of "an organization that conducts much of its business behind closed doors."
The MWAA oversees the DC-area airports as well as the ongoing construction of the Silver Line, one of the largest and most expensive infrastructure projects in the region. A recent audit this spring slammed the MWAA for weak oversight, overspending, conflicts of interest, lax ethics, and lack of transparency.
And, if today's letter is any indicator, things haven't improved much since then.
The letter reads: "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. It has become clear that MWAA's policies and procedures are deficient and lack the safeguards necessary to ensure the principled oversight of nationally and regionally significant assets."
The letter goes on to list eight steps the MWAA must take to bring itself in line with "best Federal practices" and "regain the trust of the public we all serve."
Michael Curto, the chairman of the MWAA's board, said in a statement: "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 and to earning and assuring the confidence of the people we serve."
Curto says the MWAA is "making significant progress in a number of areas," and goes on to list eight ways the Authority is reforming.
Read the letter Ray LaHood sent to the MWAA in its entirety below.