The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors approved new ethics policies for board members and employees Wednesday in a meeting that also featured approval of an agreement to end legal action between Director Dennis L. Martire, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Airports Authority.
Martire, who had challenged moves by Virginia officials to replace him on the board, returned to his seat after the agreement was announced by Chairman Michael A. Curto as the board meeting began. Martire had not been seated since the legal action began in June. After taking his seat at the board table, Martire announced he would resign at the conclusion of the October meeting.
“While I remain confident about the litigation in which I was involved, there are reasons why resolving those lawsuits was worthwhile,” Martire told the board. “First, the lawsuits threatened to be disproportionately expensive for MWAA, for me personally and for the taxpayers of Virginia. Second, the Authority needs the litigation resolved so that it can continue with the important work that it does. Operating Reagan and Dulles airports and overseeing the Silver Line construction are among the most important jobs in the region.”
Under the agreement, all litigation in the matter will be dismissed. An independent third party will review legal fees for reasonableness prior to payment by the Authority. The amount of fees to be paid will be determined over the next several weeks, Curto said.
“We are gratified that Mr. Martire and the Commonwealth have been able to reach an amicable path for resolving this situation,” Curto said. “I congratulate everyone involved for putting the traveling public first. There are important airport, highway and rail issues facing us, and we all need to work together to assure that we deliver the best results for the region.”
The board’s formal discussion of ethics policies for the Authority began at a special meeting Sept. 5, when directors also ratified a new travel policy for all directors and employees. The policy revisions are part of ongoing efforts to address criticisms of Authority business activities and governance practices.
“An ethics policy is an organization’s blueprint for maintaining integrity – a roadmap to public trust,” Curto said. “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.
“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,” he said. “In addition, the policy requires regular ethics training for all employees and Board members. It also provides for the appointment of an ethics officer to advise all Authority personnel on ethics questions and to assure compliance across the organization.”
The board has been working since early this year on initiatives to improve clarity, accountability and transparency in the Authority’s practices and procedures. In addition to addressing travel and ethics policies, the Authority has launched a review of contracting procedures and moved to close out a number of sole-source contracts. The Board also has revised its bylaws to strengthen policies on open meetings; enacted a new Freedom of Information policy; created an Internal Control Group to assure compliance with policies and procedures; and begun a review of policies regarding employment and business dealings with former board members.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority was established in 1987 by the governments of Virginia and the District of Columbia to manage and operate Washington’s Ronald Reagan National and Dulles International airports, which together serve more than 40 million passengers a year. The Airports Authority also operates and maintains the Dulles Airport Access Road and the Dulles Toll Road and manages construction of the Silver Line project, a 23-mile extension of the Washington region’s Metrorail system into Loudoun County, Va. No taxpayer money is used to operate the toll road, which is funded by toll revenues, or the airports, which are funded through aircraft landing fees, rents and revenues from concessions. The Silver Line construction is funded by a combination of toll-road revenues, airport contributions and federal, state and local government appropriations. The Airports Authority is led by a 13-member board of directors appointed by the governors of Virginia and Maryland, the mayor of Washington, D.C., and the president of the United States.