By Carten Cordell | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
ALEXANDRIA — Seeking to stem the controversy that has dogged the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority this year, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood appointed U.S. Department of Transportation attorney Kimberly Moore as accountability officer.
But little as known about Moore as she becomes the public face of transparency and openness that many critics have said MWAA needs.
DOT turned down a phone interview, stating that Moore was busy preparing for her new job and would answer submitted written questions by email.
When asked what she hoped to accomplish, Moore emailed that she would ensure the federal government’s interests in the airports and “that MWAA’s policies and practices meet the highest standards of ethics and fiscal responsibility,” which is verbatim from what LaHood said in the July 24 news release announcing her appointment.
So much for transparency.
What is known about the 33-year-old attorney is her rise to the position of hallway monitor for the bad boy airport authority has been somewhat meteoric.
Moore, a Pennsylvania native, graduated in 2005 from William & Mary University’s Marshall-Wythe Law School in Williamsburg and started with the Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office a year later.
Moore was an original member of the office’s Drug Team and was promoted to the lead attorney of the general rotation team for cases. Moore served as an assistant prosecutor in the office for more than two years, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Yet when asked how her time in Portsmouth would help her at MWAA, Commonwealth’s Attorney’s spokesman Bill Prince would only say that “she did a good job, and we wish her well,” declining to elaborate on the specifics of Moore’s tenure.
Von Piersall, a Portsmouth criminal defense attorney who argued cases against Moore, also remembered her as a quality lawyer, albeit in greater detail.
“I always like a prosecutor who is professional, but doesn’t take themselves too seriously,” he said. “There is a fine line between professional and overzealous. She was on the ball and didn’t miss any details, but didn’t take herself too seriously.”
Piersall added that Moore had an air of diplomacy that served her well in the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, which may benefit her at MWAA.
“When you are a prosecutor in a town like this, you have got to get along with defense attorneys and the police,” he said. “Kim was able to (work with) the defense, the court, her higher-ups and the police officers. They all really liked her. I would think that would be very helpful in (the MWAA) job.”
Moore left Portsmouth in 2008 to work in DOT’s General Law division. Moore said in an email that in her position at DOT, she advised “senior department officials in the areas of procurement, contracting, and ethics.”
Presumably through her experience as counsel for contract law, ethical training and lobby restrictions, among other duties for DOT, Moore became the choice to help clean up the airport authority’s reputation.
This year, MWAA has been the subject of criticism for everything from cronyism to expensive travel for conferences of dubious worth to the authority. A DOT audit report blasted MWAA in May for lack of transparency and improper contract awarding.
The authority also has been in a series of public rows with Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell over MWAA board appointments, spending and organized labor contracts for the $6 billion Silver Line Metro project.
LaHood brought Moore in to address these issues, until Congress sets up a permanent inspector general for the authority. DOT said Moore will report directly to LaHood on all matters related to MWAA’s accountability.
“I will be looking into all issues mentioned in the Inspector General’s report including contracting, ethics, and travel; and overarching concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability in the activities of MWAA’s Board of Directors,” Moore said in her email. “I will monitor the new policies while MWAA makes additional changes to ensure they meet their responsibility to promote and protect the airports and to conduct business in a way that is transparent and accountable.”
Any while Moore aims to make MWAA more open and honest about the way it does business, the authority doesn’t have a photo or bio of her on its website.
Transparency could take a while.