The leadership of the agency overseeing the $6 billion Silver Line rail project testified on Capitol Hill today. The House oversight committee wants answers from the heads of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board after an audit exposed questionable practices at the agency.
Airports authority chairman Michael Curto and CEO Jack Potter were grilled about no-bid contracts and nepotism, and decisions they were personally involved in.
Maryland congresswoman Donna Edwards asked why the law firm that employed Curto's wife was granted a $100,000 no-bid contract.
"I was not chairman at the time," said Curto. "I was not on the legal committee at the time. The general counsel for the authority made the decision to retain the law firm."
But Curto admitted it shouldn't have happened.
"Although it wasn't an actual conflict of interest, it certainly was an appearance of a conflict of interest," said Curto.
As for CEO Jack Potter, he was grilled about his decision to hire a former authority board member to a $180,000 a year position created specifically for her, but without vetting, without board approval.
"My judgement was not good in terms of the hiring of that person," said Potter.
That person was Mame Reiley, who stepped down after a public outcry. These two examples of questionable decisions were among dozens mentioned in an audit by the Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Transportation, including hundreds of millions of dollars in no-bid or low-competition contracts were granted from January 2009 to June 2011.
Transportation Secretery Ray LaHood testified, too, praising Curto and Potter for instituting changes.