Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Scathing Federal IG Report Excoriates Silver Line Project Oversight

Echoing concerns of various Congressmen, Governors and the DOT Inspector General, U. S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last week chimed in on the latest round of scandals surrounding the way the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority is managing construction of the Silver Line rail link between Dulles International and downtown Washington, D.C. “I have serious questions about how the board has operated. I want the people of the D.C. area to know that we don’t agree with what they’ve been doing,” LaHood said. “The thing that really pushed me over the top with the board is when I read in the Examiner that they gave a former board member a contract. … I think it’s too much inside politics.” One wonders how much inside politics Secretary LaHood thinks would be just the right amount.

The Inspector General report LaHood mentioned details the MWAA board’s weak oversight of the Silver Line project, lax ethics, no-bid contracts, conflicts of interest, and lack of transparency. Confronted with taxpayer and toll payer funded board expenses including a $9,200.00 airline ticket to Prague, a $4,800.00 first class ticket to Hawaii, three $1,600.00 dinner tabs, and two bottles of $119.00 wine, board member Michael L. O’Reilly could only characterize the situation as “a public perception problem. … We’ve gotten better, but we haven’t gotten to the point where people are going to praise us for our frugality.” It seems in Washington, public perception is only troublesome when it is correct.

Secretary LaHood’s comments on the IG report deftly separated the professionalism of the MWAA Silver Line project staff from the excesses of the board. “I have a great deal of confidence in the executive director of MWAA,” LaHood remarked. “Jack Potter is doing a very, very professional job. He’s trying to clean up a mess, and I have confidence that he can carry off Phase 2 of the line.”

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