By Carten Cordell | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA — Dennis Martire attended the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority on Wednesday, but he could only watch.
Gov. Bob McDonnell fired Martire from the board June 14, in part because of his ties to organized labor and the MWAA tab the board member ran up attending international conferences.
Martire is vice president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America.
The latest development came Friday, when the Fairfax County Circuit Court ruled in favor of McDonnell, saying the governor was within his rights to remove Martire.
But there’s a caveat. Martire can appeal the decision, and he has filed a separate suit in D.C. Circuit Court, further entangling the issue.
Vice chairman Tom Davis sought to put a discussion of seating Merrick on the agenda for the next meeting in an effort to have a full, functioning board, if only for the time being.
“There is pending litigation right now in D.C., and Fairfax to resolve this issue, but while we wait, Virginia loses its right to vote on this authority,” Davis said. “Therefore, I would ask that Caren Merrick be seated, pending further judicial findings, which could take weeks, months or years.”
Davis’ measure needed seven votes to pass, but came up two short, leaving the seat empty.
Board member Michael O’Reilly said the legal process would provide Merrick and Martire the opportunity “to move expeditiously” toward a resolution, and that process should not be disrupted.
“I don’t see any need for us to sit anyone or even have a motion to sit anyone at this table immediately,” he said. “We don’t need to be so hasty with this.”
The board discussed its plan to improve transparency.
The U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General in May issued a scathing audit of the board, concluding, among other things, public access to information about MWAA board operations was lacking.
Chairman Michael Curto said a new policy regarding the Freedom of Information Act would be implemented to provide greater insight into the board’s functions.
“The new policy does two important things: it notifies the public where basic information on the authority can be obtained. Most critical board documents are now on our website,” he said. “The second important thing is it restructures and simplifies the process so we now have a central FOIA who will be established in the board office, where all request can be made.”
Requests for information can now be filed with the authority’s FOIA officer, or the proper office for the request. Denied requests can be appealed to the chairman of the legal department.
The board voted to set up public sessions for comment about toll rate increases for 2013 and 2014. The rate hikes will be set in October and will fund the remainder of the $2.9 billion needed to build Phase 1 of the Silver Line metro to Wiehle Avenue.
The contract bid process for Phase 2 is forecast to be completed by spring 2013, with construction ending in 2018.