Airports authority works to address problems -- Gazette.Net


The chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors and the agency’s chief executive say they will ensure that the authority fully complies with all of the recommendations in a highly critical inspector general’s audit released earlier this month.

The board has taken a number of steps since the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General released its interim report in May, said board Chairman Michael Curto.

“The final report adds some new items of concern,” Curto said. “We are moving ahead to act on all of the final report’s recommendations.”

The report, released Nov. 1, found MWAA to have lax contracting and hiring practices and insufficient ethics policies, leading to improper contracting processes, charges of nepotism and ethical lapses such as accepting gifts from contractors doing business with the authority.

CEO Jack Potter said the staff is in the process of overhauling MWAA’s contracting manual, which guides its procurement practices, and will be revamping the human resources manual as well.

With the recent retirement of the human resources vice president, Potter said he personally will assume day-to-day control of the department.

“I really want to get a handle on what is happening in human resources,” said Potter, who was hired in mid-2011.

One example of something the authority will eliminate is an employment category called “unspecified duties,” which the inspector general audit said had been abused.

All board members, executives and managers have already received training on the authority’s new ethics policies, adopted earlier this year, and every employee will be trained by the new year, Potter said.

Curto also noted the significant turnover on the board of directors. The board has seen seven new members in the last few months, due to turnover and the addition of new board positions, and an eighth position will turn over next month. Almost the entire board has held their positions for fewer than two years.

“In many ways, we are a new board,” Curto said. “I see a group of very dedicated and capable people who share the mission of getting the airports authority fixed.”

However, some of the ethical lapses cited in the inspector general’s report do involve current board members. For example, the authority awarded a $100,000 legal contract to the law firm that Curto’s wife works at, “creating at least the appearance of a conflict of interest,” the report states.

One longer-serving board member, H.R. Crawford, defended some of the things he did as a board member.Two of his grandchildren have held positions at the authority — he said he recommended one for employment who had previously worked at another airport, and the other got her job without his involvement.

Crawford also helped the relative of a close friend obtain an entry-level position at the authority. He said Wednesday that the woman was the mother of a child who was on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11 and he did not regret the action.

“Yes, I did that,” he said. “And I would do it again.”