Home » Around Virginia » Currently Reading:

Wolf Responds To DOT IG Report on MWAA

May 17, 2012 by Contributor filed under Around Virginia No Comments

Below is a letter sent by Mr. Wolf to Secretary LaHood today in response to the DOT IG’s interim report on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) board of directors. Also included is a letter sent to Jenner and Block’s managing partner which is referenced in Wolf’s letter.

Dear Secretary LaHood:

I am deeply troubled by the findings released today in the interim report from the department’s Inspector General (IG) on the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (WMAA) Board of Directors. I requested this audit last year and am sure you agree that the report raises significant concerns about the current board’s policies and procedures, including contracting practices, ethics and transparency. This demands immediate action.

Most egregious are the IG’s findings about MWAA’s contracting practices. The report notes that in many cases MWAA failed to even abide by its own established contracting procedures, which already fall short of industry standards. Particularly concerning are the number of sole source contracts issued. As you know, MWAA is required by law to fully compete any contract over $200,000, with limited exceptions. Yet the IG’s report states that “[d]uring the period of our review, MWAA awarded five sole source contracts that were over $200,000, but did not fall under any of MWAA’s categorical exemptions. These contract awards, which amount to $6 million, did not have Board approval.” Not only did MWAA abuse the exemptions permitted under federal law, they issued numerous contracts that failed to meet even these basic standards.

The report points out that while MWAA’s Contracting Manual says some exemptions are allowed, but “comprise only a small portion of MWAA’s contracts and their dollar value,” the IG found that the use of exemptions “has amounted to 40 percent of the Authority’s $589 million in contract awards during the period of our review.”

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.”

This particular contract was initiated to procure a legal opinion by the law firm Jenner & Block for the express purpose of advising the board on how it could avoid complying with a bipartisan law passed by Congress and signed by President Obama. Amazingly, the report shows that the contract was requested on November 18, 2011, the same day the president signed the bill into law. 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.” Enclosed is a letter I sent today to Jenner & Block’s managing partner asking the firm to return the money it received for the opinion.

The report also details the lack of proper standards for the recusal of board members. The report states that MWAA’s ethics practices “are vague regarding when and how Board members should recuse themselves when a conflict of interest arises.” The report cites an instance where two board members recused themselves from a particular issue. One member left the meeting while the other stayed. While the report said the board member who stayed did not participate in the decision or vote, “he had been instrumental in drafting the materials that were up for a vote, and had a clear interest in the outcome of the vote because of his relationship with the organizations that would potentially benefit from the proposal passing.” This simply cannot stand.

The interim report also addresses MWAA’s lack of transparency, specifically noting the board’s excessive use of closed executive sessions. MWAA routinely uses these closed sessions to discuss important business that the public has a right to know. The report cites two examples that are particularly egregious. In one instance, the report notes that, “MWAA’s recent revisions to its bylaws were conducted in a closed executive session – even though the revisions included enhancements to transparency.” Later, the report states “…MWAA’s Board holds its audit committee meetings exclusively in close executive sessions.” Discussing transparency and the results of audits in closed session is counter intuitive and shows remarkable hubris.

The report further details how MWAA’s board members abuse the public trust, charging expensive flights and meals to the authority. The report cites one voucher reviewed which “contained meal expenses for some Board members and their guests for a trip to Hawaii for a conference. The cost for three dinners totaled approximately $4,800.” What is even more troubling is the fact that, “[W]hile MWAA’s travel policy states that Directors should make every effort to secure the most cost effective means of travel, there are no specified guidelines to limit travel costs for these kinds of trips.” If the board does not issue adequate guidelines, extravagant expenses like this will continue to occur.

I am also troubled by what the IG says is one set of standards for authority staff and another – seemingly lower – for the board. Equally troubling is that the IG has “identified some concerns related to nepotism at MWAA; our work is ongoing in this area.” I am pleased the IG is continuing to look into this.

One issue that is not addressed in the report – but has been confirmed by the IG – is deeply troubling: the financial settlement with Nathaniel Ford, the former San Francisco, California transit official who was originally considered for the CEO position. Why is MWAA paying an individual who never worked a single day for the authority? I am told MWAA refuses to tell the IG’s team the details of the settlement, claiming a confidentiality agreement. This is not something that should be hidden from the IG or the public.

I know how important these airports are to the success of the region. Dulles, in particular, is the economic engine of northern Virginia. Sadly, the current board has not capitalized on past successes and instead is now completely dysfunctional. Contributing to this dysfunction is the that some public officials charged with appointing MWAA board members fail to do so in a timely fashion, permitting board members to continue to serve years after their terms expire. These concerns led me to introduce legislative changes to the board, since signed into law, including the provision stating that a board member may not serve past the end of their term. Disturbingly, these are the very changes that MWAA paid $100,000 to avoid.

Based on our conversation this morning, I support your desire to place a top member of your staff immediately at MWAA to report directly to you in an effort to address the concerns detailed in the IG report. As you know, I introduced legislation last month to create a permanent IG for MWAA that would have complete access to all board actions, including executive sessions. Your staff member must be able to attend executive sessions.

Mr. Secretary, I applaud the steps we discussed and share your belief that immediately establishing an IG at MWAA will help ensure that the abuses detailed in the interim report never happen again. If the IG determines that it is necessary to “clean house” in order to implement the recommendations of the audit team, so be it. The responsibilities of the MWAA board are so important to the region that no necessary effort needed to restore public trust should be omitted.

I know how much you care about the two airports run by the authority and understand how important they are to the Washington Metropolitan area and the nation. I also appreciate the countless hours you and your staff have invested in the successful completion of Dulles rail. Your personal involvement has been critical to the project.

I also want to tell you how much I appreciate the outstanding work of Inspector General Calvin Scovel and his team. I am well aware of the time, energy and effort that have gone into the interim report and know there is a great deal more work to do. I look forward to the IG’s final report later this year.

Best wishes.

Frank Wolf

Comment on this article

By commenting, you agree to abide by our Terms of Service.









2016 Energy Summit – George Washington University


On Friday evening, October 28, George Washington University, Virginia Campus in Ashburn will host the 10th annual Don Sandros Energy Summit in cooperation with local businesses and non-profits. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. for a reception with wine donated by …

Attributing Disaster


“Humans are likely to create a catastrophe, and possibly an associated disaster, that vastly exceeds our own ability to recover from it. In the face of all our efforts, it will persist.” – Richard Guthrie [1] “Here we show that …

Concerned Parent


By Michael Oberschenider Psy.D. Dr. Mike, We recently signed our four-year-old daughter up for gymnastics. It wasn’t cheap, but her friends from the neighborhood do it, and she has been begging us to go. It turned out to be a …

Invisible Illnesses

Lunde new

By Mary Rose Lunde It is general knowledge that when people think about illnesses, they don’t think about illnesses that aren’t physically apparent. Sure, people know about conditions such as multiple sclerosis and other diseases with visible symptoms, but many …

Robinson Park

robinson park

Looking back, now – I’m glad it wasn’t what most people would’ve considered a nice day; I don’t know about you, but I’ve had my share of hot and sunny to last me for at least a generation (especially since …

Are Your Estate and Financial Plans Shock-Proof?


Don’t wait until “what if?” becomes “what is.” Where will you live as you age? Think about your housing options now, so you have choices and won’t have to make a hasty decision should an unexpected health event force you …

In Defense of ‘Adulting’


By Samuel Moore-Sobel Most friends transitioning from college to the workforce long for the days of college, wishing to be back in class and participating in campus life. To be honest, I may be in the minority, but I have …

Student News

Congratulations, Class of 2016

6 Jul 2016


Woodgrove High School’s Class Of 2016 Graduation – By Amanda Clark On June 16, Woodgrove’s Class of 2016 was the 5th graduating class to walk the stage and accept their diploma. The ceremony was filled with anticipation as the chorus, …

(Be the first to comment)

Buckland Earns Degree In Medicine

6 Jul 2016


Molly Buckland, D.O., graduated from the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine with a degree of Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine on May 28. While at WVSOM, Dr. Buckland received the Dr. Roland P. Sharp President’s Award and the James R. …

(Be the first to comment)

Adams Promoted To Lieutenant

6 Jul 2016


Lt. James Adams, from Sterling and a Potomac Falls Halls Graduate, earned the promotion to the rank of Lieutenant. Adams is a Navy Week and Executive Outreach Planner for the Navy Office of Community Outreach in Millington, Tennessee. U.S. Navy …

(Be the first to comment)


October 2016
Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
September 26, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 27, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 28, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 29, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

September 30, 2016

Dreams of Trees and Other Living Things

October 1, 2016

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

October 2, 2016
October 3, 2016 October 4, 2016 October 5, 2016 October 6, 2016 October 7, 2016 October 8, 2016

Virginia Outdoors Foundation 50 years of Conservation Celebration

October 9, 2016
October 10, 2016 October 11, 2016 October 12, 2016

Barefoot Puppets: Dreamtime, Tales From Down Under

October 13, 2016 October 14, 2016 October 15, 2016

Loudoun Centre Theatre: The Scamps Of Scapin!

October 16, 2016

Harvest Celebration & Fall Farm Tour


October 17, 2016 October 18, 2016 October 19, 2016 October 20, 2016 October 21, 2016

Anthony Semiao Live at North Gate Vineyard


October 22, 2016 October 23, 2016

Come Paint with us at Breaux Vineyards

October 24, 2016 October 25, 2016 October 26, 2016 October 27, 2016 October 28, 2016

October Fourth Friday

October 29, 2016

2 Pound Sterling Live at North Gate VIneyard

October 30, 2016

Music With A Cause - Music of Colonial America

October 31, 2016 November 1, 2016 November 2, 2016 November 3, 2016 November 4, 2016 November 5, 2016

OysterFest at North Gate Vineyard

Notaviva Vineyards - Bluegrass Jam - FREE event

November 6, 2016
Current Print Issue:
Sign up for our email newsletter:

Recent Comments

Steady and NoBull


Veteran’s Day 10k Raises Funds for Veteran Causes

13 Oct 2016


On November 6, the Loudoun County Road Runners Club will again conduct the annual Loudoun 10K Trail Race in order to raise funds for veteran causes. Since it’s origin in 2011, the trail race has generated more than $90,000 with 100 percent of proceeds going directly to veteran’s charities, specifically Boulder Crest Retreat and Pets for Vets.

(Be the first to comment)

FBRM Clean-Up Day at Blue Ridge Regional Park

6 Oct 2016


Join Friends of the Blue Ridge Mountains for an Autumn clean-up to remove invasive vegetation from Blue Ridge Regional Park on Saturday, Oct. 15 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Some tools and equipment will be provided, but please bring your clippers, pruning shears, or saws if you can. Directions: From Leesburg, drive west on Route 7 past the turnoff …

(Be the first to comment)

Painted Barrel Auction Saturday, October 8

6 Oct 2016


The Auction for The Painted Barrels around Purcellville will be held on Saturday, October 8 at 7:00 p.m at the Bush Tabernacle – 250 S. Nursery Ave. Purcellville. Thirty-Five local Loudoun County artists were given an oak wine barrel to create a Purcellville / Loudoun theme on it. Each barrel was sponsored by a local business and was displayed throughout …

(Be the first to comment)


Grief and Greed


By Matthew Parse What would drive a single individual to cause so much emotional stress and financial burden on hundreds, if not, thousands of families? What would drive the Town …


Opinion: Terrorism, Debt, and China: Oh My!


– By Nick Reid world can be a very dangerous place sometimes, especially for a nation state such as the United States. Although danger is always present, the number and …

Metro Money Mess Pushing West


– By Delegate Dave LaRock (R-33rd) A local paper recently quoted Loudoun Board Chair Phyllis Randall as saying that in her observation “some of the concerns raised by the people …

Dear Editor

New Proposed Uses for Western Loudoun

Loudoun County Seal Color

If you live in the middle or western part of Loudoun where you enjoy a parcel of open space near your property (which probably was put into an open space …

Bennett Knows How To Make Economy Work for All


In the election for the 10th District House seat, only one candidate has a more than three decades of success growing a local business. As the owner of a successful …

View From the Ridge

Broken Promises, Hidden by a Six-Foot Berm


By Andrea Gaines On August 9, 1825 at the age of 69, French military officer the Marquis de Lafayette was honored in Leesburg by former President James Monroe. The French-born …

Around Virginia

History’s Holy Places: Four Local Sites Worth Exploring This Fall


The Journey through Hallowed Ground is a 180-mile long, 75-mile wide trek from Gettysburg to Monticello, encompassing nine presidential homes and places, 18 national and state parks, and thousands of small and large historical sites. Dozens and dozens of these sites and related museums are short ride from just about …

(Be the first to comment)

Land Trust Receives Large Donation

land trust

On August 22, The Land Trust of Virginia received a $10,000 gift from the Sharon D. Virts Foundation, based in Herndon. The presentation of this grant was part of the Foundation’s official launch event, held at Selma Plantation in Leesburg. Notable speakers included Sharon D. Virts, FCiFederal Founder and Chair, …

(Be the first to comment)

Farmers Urged To Be On The Lookout For Marijuana


Farmers in Southwest Virginia are being urged to check their property for marijuana planted by trespassers. Within the past year, hundreds of marijuana plants have been discovered between rows of hay bales on farms in and around Pulaski County, according to the Claytor Lake Regional Drug Task Force. “Unfortunately this …

(Be the first to comment)


Hunter’s First Professional Race

7 Sep 2016


Drew Hunter and Loudoun Valley classmates at his first professional race, Sir Walter Miler in Raleigh, NC in early August , l to r:  Marcos Pierce, Matt Slook, Drew Hunter, Max McNerney. Hunter finished with a time of 3:57.15. Hunter turned professional and signed with Adidas.

(Be the first to comment)

Let’s Make Some Memories

3 Aug 2016


American Legion Baseball At Fireman’s Field, August 3 – 7 By Andrea Gaines American Legion Baseball is here at Fireman’s Field in a big way, featuring five consecutive blockbuster Mid-Atlantic Tournament games – August 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. Our local Leesburg Post 34 Rangers had some nice wins …

(Be the first to comment)


  • +2016
  • +2015
  • +2014
  • +2013
  • +2012
  • +2011
  • +2010
  • +2009