The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors approved new ethics policies for board members and employees today and ended one of the more bizarre episodes in its checkered history by approving an agreement to settle a lawsuit with one of its members, Dennis Martire.
Martire, a labor union official, who was a holdover appointee originally named to the board by former Gov. Tim Kaine, had challenged Gov. Bob McDonnell’s attempt to remove him from the board. As part of the confidential settlement, Martire agreed to step aside at the board’s next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 17.
Martire is Vice President and Mid-Atlantic Regional Manager of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LiUNA). Besides his role in MWAA decisions that gave preference to union-affiliated contractors, the LiUNA website credits Martire with playing “an instrumental role in the process that gave workers on Fluor-Lane’s expansion of Route 495 Hot Lanes Project a choice on whether to join a union.”
McDonnell said the settlement “put to an end the months of unnecessary and costly litigation between the parties” and said he was pleased that the settlement put an end to expensive and distracting litigation.
“We will continue to press for positive changes that are in the best interest of the taxpayers of Northern Virginia and all who rely on the critical transportation infrastructure MWAA manages,” McDonnell’s office said. “The governor will ensure his appointed board members are dedicated to finding ways to improve efficiency, cost control, and customer service for all our citizens.”
Martire’s refusal to step aside briefly became an issue in the hotly-contested U.S. Senate race that pits Kaine against Republican George Allen, who on Sept. 10 called on Kaine to publicly ask Martire to step aside.
“Tim Kaine needs to publicly call on his appointee, Dennis Martire, to resign from the MWAA Board and end this costly litigation over his dismissal. The fact that unions are one of Tim Kaine’s largest contributors shouldn’t prevent him from doing the right thing,” Allen said. “Mr. Martire very clearly has a long record of misconduct, abused taxpayer funds and now his lawsuit against the MWAA Board is spending precious money on litigation rather than transportation.”
Kaine’s campaign said today that Kaine had telephoned Martire, a Loudoun resident, in June and recommended that he resign.
“’I told Denny, ‘Look, once you become the news rather than the work [on Metro’s Silver Line], it’s time to step aside,’” Kaine told the Loudoun Times-Mirror during a Sept. 18 campaign stop in Ashburn.
Allen said Martire had become a symbol of the airports board, which has been taken repeatedly to task for lavish spending, lax controls over board members’ expenses and a lack of concern for the region’s taxpayers who are will bear much of the cost of building the Metro Silver Line extension through tolls levied by the board on Dulles Toll Road users.
“Until what the Washington Post called a ‘symbol of excess and abuse’ is gone, Virginia taxpayers and toll road users will continue to be at the mercy of an unaccountable body that has a record of outrageously wasting public dollars,” Allen said.
And as for that new ethics policy, MWAA board chairman Michael A. Curto calls it “a roadmap to public trust.”
“This policy is designed to keep us free of conflicts of interests, so the public can be assured that our decisions are based on the best interests of the Authority and the region we serve,” he said in a prepared statement. “This policy is also designed to assure transparency and accountability in our decisions and dealings by providing guidelines for recusal, financial disclosure, acceptance of gifts and other aspects of serving in a public organization.”
An MWAA spokeswoman, Kimberly Gibbs, said the policy approved by the board was “still in draft form” and would be released when it was in final form.