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MWAA Board Member Dispute Continues

As Virginia presses to seat new members, DC threatens litigation.

The headaches never seem to end at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

MWAA has come under scrutiny for congress spending by its board of directors, its oversight of Metro's Silver Line, its reliance on Dulles Toll Road fees to pay for the rail project and its use of project labor agreements to complete its construction.

And now, as the board of directors meets July 18 for a meeting, its membership remains in dispute.

Earlier this year, Congress approved changes to the board's membership that give Virginia more representation. Gov. Bob McDonnell has pressed to have two new members seated, and has also attempted to immediately replace D.C.'s with one of his picks: McLean businesswoman Caren Merrick.

To McDonnell, the replacement is a done deal. But Martire and the District of Columbia have fought McDonnell over the changes. This week, a Fairfax Circuit Court judge’s decision related to Martire’s removal resulted in conflicting stories in the Loudoun Times-Mirror and the Washington Examiner about whether Martire could be removed.

A July 16 letter from Virginia Sec. of Transportation Sean Connaughton asserted the state’s position that Martire could be removed.

“We have been provided a copy of his July 16, 2012, letter to you making such an argument,” DC Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan wrote in a July 17 letter to MWAA on behalf of the city. “This argument is fallacious and its acceptance could have unfortunate consequences.”

In a letter to MWAA, Martire’s attorney, Kevin M. Hodges, of Williams & Connolly, wrote "to remove a member of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board, there must be ‘cause’ to do so, and the removal must be accomplished ‘in according with’ the laws of the jurisdiction from which the member was appointed.”

“Moreover, legal ‘cause’ must exist in fact before a member may be removed from his position, and a court must determine whether there is cause. To date, no court—including the court in Fairfax County—has held that Governor McDonnell acted ‘in accordance with’ the laws of Virginia when he purported to remove our client," Hodges wrote.

The exchange of letters occurred as the MWAA board prepared for a meeting Wednesday morning. Martire’s attorney argued if MWAA does not allow Martire to participate, it should also disallow Merrick's participation in the meeting.

“At a minimum … MWAA must maintain its current position and seat neither Mr. Martire nor Ms. Merrick until a court determines who is the rightful holder of the disputed seat,” Hodges wrote. “MWAA publicly committed itself to that position to both Mr. Martire and Ms. Merrick prior to the last Board meeting.”

Nathan’s letter on behalf of D.C. said an attempt to seat new members before the issue is resolved could result in litigation.

 “Such an action would be beyond the authority of MWAA provided in the governing interstate compact, would violate the compact, and could lead to unnecessary conflict and, potentially, to litigation,” Nathan wrote. “If this occurs, the District will have no choice but to consider its legal options, including pursuing relief in the courts.”

Bob Bruhns July 18, 2012 at 02:39 PM
Also: Mr. Martire is not an appointee of the District of Columbia. In fact, Mr. Martire was appointed by former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. Board Member biographical information from MWAA: http://www.mwaa.com/2430.htm "Mr. Martire is an appointee of the Governor of Virginia." Tussle over Virginia seat on airports board Washington Post, June 20, 2012 http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/tussle-over-virginia-seat-on-airports-board/2012/06/20/gJQArEGBrV_story.html "Martire ... was appointed by McDonnell’s Democratic predecessor Timothy M. Kaine"
joe brewer July 18, 2012 at 03:34 PM
The guy does not qualify to buy a airline ticket so I am glad he is being removed. if other board members have done the same fire them. Who thinks 2 wrongs make a right except for Martire? Is that similar to the Kennedys claim of a seizure and the Obama boy in California who got busted same as she did?
Rick Wilson July 19, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Governor Kaine did not hand it over to MWAA...they took it. The right of way for the Silver line belonged to MWAA and they felt they could better manage the project. I'm not commenting on whether MWAA has or has not done a good job, simply correcting the assertion that Governor Kaine was somehow responsible for MWAA's involvement.
Bob Bruhns July 20, 2012 at 04:29 PM
No, Rick - Tim Kaine gave the Toll Road to MWAA. According to Virginia Attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, Tim Kaine was not outside of his authority as Governor of Virginia to give the toll Road to MWAA - but now we can see the results of Kaine's horrible judgement. MWAA is simply out of control. Thanks so much, Mr. Kaine. Cuccinelli backs Kaine on Dulles rail project Attorney general’s opinion OKs 2006 transfer to MWAA Washington Times http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/may/29/cuccinelli-backs-kaine-on-dulles-rail-project/ Traffic gridlock and political games Fairfax Times, June 08, 2012 http://www.fairfaxtimes.com/article/20120608/OPINION/706089829/1065/traffic-gridlock-and-political-games&template=fairfaxTimes Commentary: Dulles Rail Phase II: A Common Sense Approach The Connection, February 2, 2012 http://www.connectionnewspapers.com/news/2012/feb/02/commentary-dulles-rail-phase-ii-common-sense-appro/
Rob Whitfield July 21, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Rick Wilson: Your statement: "The right of way for the Silver line belonged to MWAA and they felt they could better manage the project." is plainly incorrect. Circa 1982, Virginia leased part of the 400 foot wide Dulles Access Road right of way from the federal government for a 75(?) year term which will end in 2057 to build the Dulles Toll Road. The first DTR section opened in 1984. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority was created by an act of Congress in 1986 and enabling legislation adopted by the District and Virginia in 1987. Bob Bruhns is correct. Governor Kaine GAVE AWAY A STATE ASSET PAID FOR BY VIRGINIA TAXPAYERS FOR $0.00. IN 2008, THE VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF RAIL AND PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION VALUED THE DULLES TOLL ROAD ASSET AT $3.52 BILLION. Next time you hear a politician say: "The Virginia General Assembly should give more funding to Dulles Rail," tell them to get stuffed. Only Tysons or Dulles Corridor landowners, politicans who don't understand cost-benefit analysis, transit riders who want greater subsidies from taxpayers and Chamber of Commerce members support throwing more money at a plainly infeasible project. I happen to like Denny Martire but not the mission of the labor union he represents. It is for Virginia and perhaps federal courts to determine if Denny violated MWAA's rules or code of ethics and conduct. The District has no legal role in this matter. How about DC taxpayers giving Virginia $1 billion for Dulles Rail?

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