LTE: McDonnell Should Drop MWAA Suit

Former supervisor Stevens Miller weighs in on litigation over Martire’s seat.

The Metropolitan Washington Airport’s Authority Board has been the subject of wide-ranging criticism for its overly generous travel policy granted to its directors.

The generous travel policy led Gov. Bob McDonnell to remove Loudoun resident Dennis Martire from the MWAA Board, citing Martire’s travel on behalf of MWAA as his cause for doing so. But just this week a Fairfax judge ruled that McDonnell had not demonstrated cause to remove Martire.

It’s not surprising that the judge ruled against McDonnell. No taxpayer money was involved — numerous MWAA directors traveled using funds derived from the service fees paid by airlines and other airport users. However, most people would probably be in favor of a more austere travel policy if it could free up additional resources to improve the airports.

An obvious solution would therefore be to revise MWAA’s policies with some common-sense reforms and then move on. Instead, critics of MWAA and its travel policy have responded in ways that are extravagantly disproportionate to the original incidents, and even to the much-maligned travel budget itself. Gov. McDonnell has elected to embroil the state in litigation over a $9,000 plane ticket that will cost millions in legal fees to resolve. Even if MWAA’s travel budget was too generous, we shouldn’t let the governor compound the mistake by wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on needless litigation that a more prudent governor would have avoided.

Public servants have an obligation to ensure the solutions we propose aren’t many times worse than the problems they are designed to solve. Gov. McDonnell has lost in court and now it’s time to work together to ensure MWAA is operating properly and completing Phase II of Rail to Dulles.

Stevens R. Miller
Past member, Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, 2008-2011

Jonathan Erickson August 22, 2012 at 12:04 PM
The MWAA has spent 75 thousand dollars for this guys defense. Even at 500 hundred dollars a hour that about 3 and 3/4 weeks of a full time lawyer and whose expense, you guessed it. Investigate these charges also is Martire making these checks out himself. Why isn't there a limit on what the MWAA can spend for legal fees. If he does not win do we as the taxpayer get our money back from Dennis.
Rob Whitfield August 22, 2012 at 12:12 PM
Mr. Miller, where is your evidence that "litigation over a $9,000 plane ticket ...will cost millions in legal fees to resolve?" The Washington Post yesterday reported that MWAA's Board has authorized (or spent) $75,000 to defend Denny Martire, it's unllikely that Virginia's trial court costs so far are greater. If Virginia mounts an appeal, what evidence exists that costs would exceed $100,000? http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/board-members-question-mwaa-spending-for-martires-legal-expenses/2012/08/20/d915b57a-e892-11e1-936a-b801f1abab19_story.html You state: "We shouldn’t let the governor compound the mistake by wasting millions of taxpayer dollars on needless litigation that a more prudent governor would have avoided." How was Governor McDonnell supposed to avoid an action by a MWAA Board member that came to light due to a USDOT audit?" By stating that "No taxpayer money was involved — numerous MWAA directors traveled using funds derived from the service fees paid by airlines and other airport users" you appear condone actions which at best were unwise. Do we know if any Toll Road funds were used? Denny and I have spoken a half dozen times in the last three years. He is a likeable guy and has raised some valid concerns about problems with past MWAA contracts. That said, if true, his use of MWAA funds to pay for what is reported as a nine day trip to Sardinia for a 36 hour conference is a breach of public trust.
Dave Webster August 22, 2012 at 12:36 PM
Governor McDonnell has not "lost in court." Judge David S. Schell did not rule on the merits of Martire's removal. He merely ruled Martire's seat would remain vacant while the litigation is ongoing. Mr. Miller's assertion that millions in legal fees will be spent is laughable. So what if Martire didn't use taxpayer funds for his trip to Sardinia and used funds derived from service fees at the airports. I will bet the people and businesses that paid those service fees don't want to subsidize European vacations for MWAA officials.
Bob Bruhns August 22, 2012 at 02:41 PM
We hear that MWAA Board members needed to travel to conferences to learn about transit, etc. But did any MWAA Board members go to Fairfield, Connecticut, to look at the Metro station there, that was completed in December 2011, and cost 40% of what MWAA has handed us as the cost for our Rt 28 Metro station? I didn't think so. Maybe if they had, they would have learned what they claim they were trying to learn - namely, how to bring the cost of Dulles Rail down to earth, so that Northern Virginia would not be burdened with billions of dollars of unnecessary costs because of our rail project. What we have here is a Board of political appointees, political fundraisers, etc, that instead needs to be a Board of experienced transit experts. Immediate changes are very much in order. Interestingly, apologists say "Oh yes, this Board of high level political insiders did some really wacky things. But gee, they are getting better, because they only do a few really bad things any more, so we just need to leave them in charge of this project - so that they can decide who gets the really lucrative contracts, now that they allowed prices to run up to almost two times what they should be." Please. We aren't talking about a few troubled juvenile delinquents here. We are talking about high level political insiders. The Public needs to stop thinking like six year olds, and take a look at what is going on! This is going to cost us dearly, for generations.
Dave Webster August 22, 2012 at 04:53 PM
One more item to consider about Martire's Sardinia junket. The Washington Post noted in a May 31, 2012 editorial that Martire didn't have to go to Sardinia. There were conferences he could have attended in America. Here is a quote: "In a statement, Mr. Martire defended the [Sardinia] trip as 'directly relevant to my duties as a Board member' and 'fully legitimate and absolutely consistent with [airports authority] policies.' However, he did not explain how it was relevant or answer any of our specific questions — for instance, why he chose to attend a conference in Sardinia when the same sponsor holds almost 20 conferences and seminars in the United States and Canada each year." Either Mr. Miller is unaware of this, in which case we should discount his opinion because he hasn't researched this issue before writing a letter to the editor or he is aware of this (much more likely) in which case he is being dishonest when he says McDonnell's chief concern was MWAA's "overly generous travel policy."


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