Proposed federal legislation to change the makeup of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors does not have the full backing of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
The Airports Authority board has been under heavy scrutiny in recent months following allegations of nepotism and overspending on travel, as well as concerns about the group’s procurement practices. There also have been several disputes between the authority and its Virginia partners regarding aspects of the Dulles Metrorail construction.
The board has since implemented reforms to its travel policy, adopted a new ethics policy, and directed authority staff to reform contracting practices.
U.S. Rep.Frank Wolf (R-Dist. 10) has been trying since last year to restructure the board. Legislation passed last year, but never implemented, would have expanded the board from 13 to 17 members, seven of whom would be appointed by the Virginia governor.
Now, Wolf has submitted a bill that would shrink the board to nine members, including six from Virginia and one appointee each from the mayor of the District of Columbia, the governor of Maryland and the President of the United States.
Under the legislation that created the authority in the 1980s, there are five Virginia appointees, three D.C. appointees, three presidential appointees and two Maryland appointees.
Wolf’s bill also would forcibly implement the measure in the District, avoiding some of the implementation issues that affected his prior legislation.
Although several Fairfax supervisors said they support Wolf’s efforts, others said they don’t think changing the board’s structure would address their concerns.
“I think there are instruments available already … it doesn’t mean you have to take it over to get what you want,” said Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill).
Hudgins and others said they don’t want to send a message to Virginia’s neighbors that are not willing to collaborate on a regional basis.
“It was actually some folks from Virginia that created some of the problems,” said Supervisor Jeff McKay (D-Lee). “What my constituents expect of me is that we are working well with our partners in the region.”
Rather than a full-out endorsement of the bill, the board opted to draft a letter to Wolf thanking him for his efforts to address the board issues, as well as making some suggestions about things they would like to see in the bill.
For example, board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D), among others, said she would like to see the Airports Authority appointees come from Northern Virginia, rather than anywhere in the state, because one of her biggest challenges has been communicating with board members from other states.
“It should be Northern Virginia, when we’re weighing in on this, so we don’t have this governor or a future governor appointing people who have no stake in what happens in Dulles Airport,” she said.
The board is expected to vote on the letter on Tuesday.