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Speak Out: Should McDonnell Continue Pursuit for Martire's MWAA Removal?

As Virginia GOP pushes for control of panel, resistance continues with court ruling against governor

As legislation proposed by , Virginia leaders and the existing board remain tied up in court over the current membership.

A Fairfax County Circuit Court judge ruled against Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) on Monday, leaving one seat on the MWAA board vacant as the parties resolve the dispute. McDonnell attempted to remove  — a Democratic appointee who has come under fire for a $9,000 plane ticket to Prague for a transportation conference that MWAA authorized — and replace him with Caren Merrick, a Republican who lost her run for delegate in the 31st District last fall.

At issue is whether McDonnell had the authority to remove Martire before his term ended. Sec. of Transportation Sean Connaughton told the Washington Post that Martire was removed for his "abuse of ethical issues."

Martire, who Republicans have blamed for MWAA's push to require a project labor agreement for the Metro Silver Line's Phase 2, has sued to keep his seat. Part of the issue stems from whether expense concerns highlighted by a recent review of the board by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inspector General constitute abuse, despite having been authorized. The entire MWAA board had previously backed the PLA, with the apparent coordination of Virginia Sec. of Transportation Sean Connaughton.

So while the dispute is resolved, Virginia has one less representative on the board, which Wolf hopes to transfer almost entirely to Virginia control.

"We continue to maintain that there is no legal or factual cause for my removal from the board, which is the requirement set forth in federal and Virginia statute," Martire said Tuesday. "The governor once again has failed to present any evidence of cause for removal, and we look forward to moving forward with our case."

Tell us: Should McDonnell continue to push for Martire's removal from the MWAA board? 

Dave Webster August 15, 2012 at 04:00 PM
I have never heard of believing only half of what you see. Be that as it may, what in the Post's Sardinia report do you believe could be exposed as being false?
kdk gmail August 15, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Really because many people dont see the whole picture, sometimes you walk in on something half way. When you are on a board that you have never served on and you are offered the opportunity to learn more about the airports and transportation to make well rounded decicisons then you take those opportunities. The airports authority obviously had no problem offering the opportunities or reimbursing him for taking it.
Rob Whitfield August 15, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Economy round trip fares to Warsaw from Dulles range from about $1,208 to $1,400 depending on the carrier and routing. First class fares with stop at Frankfurt on United start at over $10,000. Other carriers are even more costly. In the past, other MWAA Board members have taken junkets to Hawaii and elsewhere for Airports Council International events of limited benefit to operations at our airports. It is time for MWAA to make clear in public its permitted travel policies - and include in its annual budget, an allowance for travel. It is one thing to travel on somebody else's cost for primarily pleasure, but if the travel is for achieving a legitimate business result, most of us would condone reasonable travel costs. To the best of my knowledge, while travel to and from and attendance costs for MWAA Board meetings is reimbursed, their time at Board meetings is not compensated
C. Hass August 15, 2012 at 06:02 PM
I appreciate your thoughtfulness Dave, but there really are two separate questions here. 1. Was the governor justified in removing Mr. Martire? 2. Should the governor continue to fight in court? The court will decide the first question, but it's not clear cut and easy. The court just ruled that the governor hasn't presented the evidence that Mr. Martire did anything to warrant being removed, according to the MWAA rules. This means both sides are going to spend months in court and we all are going to have to pay for it. In my fiscally conservative opinion, the bargain solution is to drop the legal fight and instead just change the MWAA rules, which, presumably, could be done without the expense of a protracted legal battle. Its sounds to me as though the Governor ultimately wants to change the whole MWAA board because they all have their hands dirty on one thing or another. If so, why not focus on that rather than paying through the teeth to go 10 rounds in court over this one guy?
kdk gmail August 15, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Interesting read about PLAs Veterans Administration Rejects Project Labor Agreements; Now Its Construction Projects are Fraught with Problems WASHINGTON, DC -- After outright rejecting the use of Project Labor Agreements (PLAs) for its ambitious plans to construct several new hospital facilities across the United States, the US Department of Veterans Affairs is now experiencing critical cost-overruns, massive scheduling delays, expensive quality issues, and accusations concerning the use of undocumented workers on projects being funded with taxpayer dollars. The $600 million VA hospital project in Lake Nona, Florida is a prime example. A congressional field hearing conducted August 13, 2012 uncovered the fact that the project is now in excess of $100 million over-budget and is approximately a year behind schedule. The general contractor responsible for the project, Brasfield and Gorrie (B&G), is a member of the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) a notorious anti-union contracting group that fiercely defends and promotes a business model predicated upon the use of a low-wage, low-skill, easily exploitable workforce. In addition to the cost overruns and scheduling issues, the field hearing uncovered the fact that there are numerous quality issues arising from this project, including rust and mold issues that will almost certainly add to the final, escalating cost of this project.
kdk gmail August 15, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Even more disheartening was the fact that, in early 2011, federal and state agencies twice raided the Lake Nona project and found the rampant use of undocumented workers. One subcontractor was found to have hidden some of those workers in the heating and ventilation ducts during the raid. Sadly, the 1.2-million-square-foot hospital under construction at Lake Nona Medical City isn't the only VA project experiencing these types of problems. Across the country, many VA medical construction projects are also far behind schedule. Of the four VA hospitals presently under construction, three are more than a year behind schedule, according to the U.S. House Committee on Veteran's Affairs. Among the 55 VA medical clinics authorized by Congress since 1998, five are completed, while 38 are behind schedule, and more than a third of those are delayed at least three years. One Jacksonville, FL clinic is more than 13 years behind schedule. "In 2010, we specifically warned Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki that each and every one of these issues would arise if the VA embraced a 'low road' approach to its construction procurement policies," said Sean McGarvey, President of the Building and Construction Trades Department. "It's sad that taxpayer dollars are being wasted while the VA learns an inconvenient truth that was conceived by Ben Franklin over 200 years ago: 'The bitterness of poor quality lasts long after the cheap price is forgotten.'"
Bob Bruhns August 15, 2012 at 06:51 PM
We see the reports that the MWAA Board has been violating its own rules left and right, giving out several no-bid contracts in excess of limits, conducting improper closed-door meetings, etc. I'd say that knowing about that misconduct, and not reporting it to authorities, is cause for removal from the MWAA Board. So let's flush out the problem members, and get this Board straightened out. People try to justify the Sardinia trip by claiming that MWAA Board members need to educate themselves on rail, etc. But the result of this 'education' is Silver Line construction prices that are nearly two times what they should be. I think somebody should have looked at the costs of the Fairfield Metro rail station ($40 million and very comparable to our $101 million Rt 28 station.) and parking garages (should be maybe as much as $17,000 per space in the DC area, maybe less here in the suburbs, but MWAA handed us a price of $34,000 per space). It certainly seems that the tens of thousands of expenses I'm seeing mentioned in the press might not have resulted in a very good education, especially when the MWAA Board members could have confirmed these figures in simple web searches costing much less.
kdk gmail August 15, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Bob. The board did not give out the no-bid contracts. Those decisions were made by the staff. Also, Bob, the IG was paid tons of $ to investigate the board and all they found for misconduct from the board was excessive ticket costs for several board members not just Martire. But the only board member the Gov. is trying to remove (for no cause) is the one who supports the middle class worker. Seems political to me. Oh yeah the two people he has chosen to replace him (Martire) are people he has total control over who have failed politcally on their own. Did you read the article on PLAs above?
Dave Webster August 15, 2012 at 07:07 PM
1.) The Virginia statute authorizing removal doesn't define cause. Va. Code Sec. 5.1-155(E) states "[e]ach member may be removed or suspended from office only for cause, and in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction from which he is appointed." Until I read the pleadings I couldn't say if "cause" exists here because I don't know what level of misconduct is required. I haven't read the Judge's ruling but it could be as simple as the Court won't seat a new appointee until this case is resolved. In other words, I don't think there was any ruling on the merits. 2.) The Governor should continue the fight unless it is clear from the case law that "cause" does not exist. This situation is bound to come up in the future so we may as well delineate now what behavior is reason enough to terminate someone's position on the board. Plus, I think Martire's trip to Sardinia wasn't justified under any circumstances. He took advantage of a system in which he was allowed to run wild with only his conscience as his guide. With regard to focusing solely on Martire, like Bob Bruhns, I would like to see the entire Board wiped clean of anyone who took advantage of the lax to non-existent rules regarding travel, dining expenses, and cronyism with regard to non-compete contracts.
Dave Webster August 15, 2012 at 09:30 PM
The preliminary IG report found a lot more than just excessive ticket costs. The IG's report also shows that conflicts of interest between members of the board and contractors were ignored. The report details how "... one Board member's recommendation led MWAA to initiate a $100,000 contract with a law firm despite the fact that an immediate family member worked for the firm." The report goes on to say that "while this family relationship had been previously disclosed, the Board member did not refrain from participating in matters related to the firm when the issue arose (per MWAA policy), and MWAA awarded the contract to the recommended firm. At minimum this created the appearance of a conflict of interest that may have been avoided had the Board member exercised better judgment and fully followed MWAA's ethical procedures."It also is worth noting that the report reveals that the law firm submitted its "completed legal opinion to MWAA before the noncompetitive contact [was] documented and officially signed." Here is a link to the preliminary IG report. http://www.oig.dot.gov/sites/dot/files/MWAA%20Interim%20Letter_5-15-12.pdf
Bendy Viragh August 15, 2012 at 11:37 PM
I am confused. Just what has this guy done to "support the middle class worker"? Instead of throwing out catchy phrases for us, the general ignorant public, please do explain what you are trying to explain, albeit in a rather clumsy fashion. What is your definition of a "middle class worker"? (Check "Das Kapital" !) Is there a low class and an upper class worker? I, who am probably a member of this downtrodden middle class worker group, do question why Martire is using our money to take luxury junkets to Sardinia (nice place!) to study small European airports.
Rob Whitfield August 15, 2012 at 11:37 PM
Both Rob Jackson and Terry Maynard are correct. Terry is correct that present actions of politicians will do nothing to reduce the burden to Dulles Toll Road users of the potential $17 billion in DTR tolls needed to complete Dulles Rail, based on the present financing plan. Rob is correct that the Dulles Rail project is nowhere near economically and financially feasible. Why else would WMATA, which will operate the Silver Line, refuse to release detailed information on projected ridership, revenues, costs and subsidies needed? Virtually no politician or Chamber of Commerce official will discuss alternatives to DTR tolls. Nobody seems to have the guts to say that transit riders should pay most project capital costs and operating costs. Misconduct does not appear confined to the MWAA Board. A federal investigation of WMATA, their relationships and conflicts of interest involving various people, from both government and private sector, is needed. The final IG report is not likely until after the November elections. Expect further major revelations of misconduct. The MWAA Board approves all major contracts. It seems likely that some, or most, no bid awards were made at the behest of certain Board members. In November 2012, within days of Congress's approval of Congressman Wolf's MWAA Board reform measures, MWAA paid $100,000 (as I recall) on a non-competitive basis for a law firm to produce a brief claiming the Congressional action to be illegal.
Rob Whitfield August 15, 2012 at 11:42 PM
Correction. I meant to say the Congressional bill approved in November 2011. The text of Congressman Wolf's new bill HR 6356 has not yet been posted online.
Bob Bruhns August 16, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Oh come on, kdk, are you seriously trying to tell me that MWAA staff hired a retiring Board member the day after she left the Board, and that staff decided to pay off a candidate who failed because he was, um, a bit behind on his tax payments? And are you telling me that the Board allowed staff to approve non-bid contracts in excess of $200,000? Let's get real, please, kdk - the readers here aren't six years old, you know. Also, I'm not sure exactly how it helps the middle class to burden this region with a near-double pricetag, PLUS interest on the great big pile of money that will have to be borrowed to pay that near-double price. Actually, it's going to be quite a burden for generations, isn't it. No doubt making wild claims is the reason you use a pen name - you won't have to answer for the stories you tell. It's classic Dulles Rail deception tactics. People need to keep this in mind.
Bob Bruhns August 16, 2012 at 01:51 AM
I posted the July 30, 2012 draft of H.R.6356 here: http://restonweb.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5732&start=255 Scroll down to the second post, it's at the bottom of the post. I posted plain text and a link to a copy of the original pdf.
kdk gmail August 16, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Brown says MWAA should be congratulated for its handling of the Silver Line Rail project to Dulles. If anything, he says criticism should be directed at Virginia, which has committed only $150 million of the project's approximate $5.5 billion cost. Brown says he hopes Secretary LaHood will push for additional federal dollars. "There is no major transportation project anywhere in the country of this scale that is being built so heavily on the backs of local funding," says Brown. Federal funding covers about one-sixth of the Silver Line's costs.
Dave Webster August 16, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Under then Governor Kaine, Virginia assigned all its rights to the Dulles Toll Road revenues to MWAA and has therefore put the most money into the Silver Line by far. The final tally will be at least several billion dollars from Virginia.
Rob Whitfield August 16, 2012 at 02:43 PM
According to Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, the value of the Dulles Toll Road and its projected revenue stream estimated to be $4.4 billion, transferred to MWAA in late 2008 for $0.00, were valued in 2008 at $3.52 billion. http://www.datatrans.org/presentations/102011-DRPT-update.pdf
kdk gmail August 16, 2012 at 04:26 PM
and Wolf thinks the line should be named after him.
Bob Bruhns August 16, 2012 at 04:30 PM
The federal government also refuses to further fund the Silver Line, and the reason is that this rail project is premature (meaning insufficient ridership), and incredibly overpriced (about a Billion and a half dollars overpriced in Phase II alone). It should have been a bus system aimed at preparing a transit corridor for rail, when rail might actually be appropriate - but some business-political opportunists realized that our political process is so incompetent that a huge overcharge was possible with rail, and we will be paying for that ripoff for generations. The line was sold as critically important rail to the Dulles Airport - until it was started and under way, and MWAA's Board just started spending money because it was fun. That's when we found out that the Dulles Airport station was mostly for airport employees! This Silver Line project, formerly known as Dulles Rail, has been a pack of lies since it went political around 2002. Now that we are locked in, the truth can finally come out - not only the unworkable tolls, and not only the clown show in MWAA's boardroom, but also the bottleneck at the Rosslyn Tunnel, and WMATA's other maintenance and capital needs... and who knows, we might even see an official acknowledgement that the Dulles Rail project was massively overpriced, and that the Dulles Airport station should have been a dead-end spur, rather than a big expensive elevated loop.
Bob Bruhns August 16, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Interesting claim. Where did you see that? Or was that comment just a diversionary cheap shot.
kdk gmail August 16, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Washington Airports Task Force 30th Anniversary Luncheon We could take a page out of your book. You ought to be high-fiving one another. You know what this corridor has done. It’s about the vision thing. You had a vision if you could connect Dulles Airport to downtown. It’s an economic corridor with an opportunity for good paying jobs. Driving out, I see all those people building Phase 1. It will be that way in Phase 2. Your friends and neighbors will have jobs. That’s what this is about. This will be a model for the rest of the country about how people came together to talk and solve problems. This-the Silver line-should be named the Wolf line. Without their vision. That’s why we got involved, why Metro is involved.
kdk gmail August 16, 2012 at 04:43 PM
No no diversionary cheap shot. The politicians want to have control so they make all these negative comments about the rail and then they pat themselves on the back. Alot of wasted money on there part and alot of diversionary tactics on their part. Not everyone sees things ur way Bob.
CC Mojo August 16, 2012 at 08:34 PM
I just left Purcellville after a quick chat with a man who said that his well-educated children cannot find jobs in the area, and that he is truly concerned for their future. The truth is that the Silver Line IS needed - to create jobs in its construction, as well as secure jobs for Loudoun's booming population. The nay-sayers don't want to "come together" to help provide a future for our residents, yet, they're mostly the ones who also complain about people living off of public assistance. Its ridiculous.
Bob Bruhns August 16, 2012 at 08:54 PM
Really - on the word of a pen name commenter, I'm supposed to believe that Frank Wolf got up at the Washington Airports Task Force 30th Anniversary Luncheon (on Monday, August 13, 2012), and said that the Silver Line should be called the Wolf Line? Please. At best, you confused Ray LaHood with Frank Wolf, kdk. Ray LaHood was the guest speaker at the Washington Airports Task Force 30th Anniversary Luncheon. And if you look at the reports of that meeting, those vision and model points were coming from LaHood. LaHood calls Metro's Silver Line model for the country WTOP , August 13, 2012 http://www.wtop.com/149/2991855/LaHood-Silver-Line-is-model-for-country Mr. LaHood was talking about this Silver Line rail line being a model for the rest of the country, and that's exactly what I am afraid will happen - a model of a premature implementation of a bad design with out of control costs, winding up costing nearly two times what it should cost, because of a Board of madhouse management, handing money to each other, and hiding everything from the rest of us, and because of a total failure of oversight by our complicit elected government and its transportation agencies, and because of a complicit news media playing along with the game. The pubic needs to wake up, NOW.
Bob Bruhns August 16, 2012 at 11:25 PM
I'll agree that just because the old management was no good, that doesn't make new management any better. But sometimes it is necessary to remove rotten apples, before they ruin every other apple in the container, and now appears to be one such time. Those members of the MWAA Board who stood by, and said and did nothing about the abuses that went on, need to be sent to Hollywood to make comedy movies or something, instead of jacking up the costs of item after item of this rail line. Whoever controls this rail project from now on, should be (1) competent in rail transit and (2) concerned about the effects of their handiwork on the people of Northern Virginia. The mistake that loaded the Board with various political operatives and fund-raisers must not be repeated - we simply can not afford it.
Rob Whitfield August 17, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Bob Bruhns is correct. Congressman Frank Wolf did not speak at the WATF 30th anniversary luncheon. I walked in near the end of brief opening remarks by Ray LaHood. He may have opened with a joke about Wolf before I arrived. Leo Schefer, long time head of WATF said that there are two challenges facing us: 1. How to arrange funding for Phase 2 to complete the project to Dulles. 2. How to achieve reform of MWAA Board. Rob Jackson had it right when he talked about the transfer of wealth from the middle class to a few wealthy landowners but he omitted to mention the transfer of wealth from Outside the Beltway to Inside the Beltway. $$ billions over the next 50 years thanks to incompetent politicians and smart growth advocates. The USEPA (and smart growthers) wants to suck $$ billions more of your money for worms! In answer to Rob Jackson's comment about funding of Dulles Rail, the original WMATA compact jurisdictions, having received about $10 billion in federal grants to complete the first 103 miles of Metrorail, voted circa 2001 to not fund any future extensions of Metrorail.
Mark Carolla August 17, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Dave - I consult in the field of international airline operations and constantly get invited to attend such costly conferences they are, after all, run to make a profit. Unlike the MWAA Board I don't have the pockets to attend because of other expense priorities. But, in this case my only objection would be business class air fare. In this case, for air fare there seems to be a semblance of impropriety and inadequate stewardship of the taxpayers money. However, a bit of criticism appears unfounded - "A 36 hour conference?" As I doubt the conference was around the clock, 36 hours would be pretty reasonable for a 5 day Monday-Friday conference. Most conference fees for that type of airline or airport related event run at least $800 if not to three thousand dollars. If that 10K included a conference fee AND hotell bills at a seaside Italian resort, the taxpayers got a bargain. Your comment that the conference "was a tangential topic for U.S. airports...and...the forum was irrelevant to U.S. airport executives" is way off base. If you go out to Dulles or any other "hub" in the US you'll see that "regional" (out sourced small aircraft airlines) make up much of the traffic to places such as Scranton, Charlottesville - small regional airports - Dulles's operations are intertwinded with those. Their operations, infrastructure, and issues are highly relevant & affect the IAD business and operational models, and small regional airports in Europe have much to teach us.
Dave Webster August 17, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Mark, Those words I quoted were from the Washington Post. They weren't mine. Nevertheless, what did Mr. Martire report when he got back? That smartphones can be usefull tools for airports to communicate with passengers. That's what we got for the $10,000 vacation to Sardinia.
Mark Carolla August 18, 2012 at 01:55 AM
@ Dave Webster - Thanks. Apologies for attributing the Post comment to you. It is my opinion and that the Post's (and other media) transportation reporting is sometimes lacking in an understanding and presentation of real issues. I'd be interested to see the entire report Mr. Martire wrote because the use of smartphones in ticketing, passenger boarding facilitation, rebooking in case of delays and cancellations, etc. is a current high interest - and sometimes controversial - issue in the airline industry. The Post is writing this trip up as if it were the GSA follies...I'm not trying to argue with Congressman Wolf or our Governor...and as even several MWAA Board members have indicated, some board members have not exactly been the best stewards of the public money but much of this travel is legitimate and timely.

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