Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has named an information technology executive and an unsuccessful legislative candidate to the board of the authority that operates Reagan National and Dulles International airports and is managing construction of the $6 billion Metrorail expansion to Loudoun County.
Todd Stottlemyer of Oakton, chief executive of the Silver Spring-based technology firm Acentia, and Caren Merrick of McLean, a businesswoman who ran for the state Senate this month, will join the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
McDonnell (R), who made the appointments Wednesday morning, has strong ties to Stottlemyer and Merrick, who have donated to his campaigns.
The appointments follow McDonnell’s long-standing attempt to get more seats on the board and other regional transit groups. He pushed to have a representative on the Metro board and eventually persuaded the General Assembly to give him the authority to make an appointment.
The MWAA has been criticized over how it operates and for its management of the 23-mile Dulles rail project. Phase 1, which is under construction from Falls Church to Reston, could run as much as $150 million over budget. The inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation is conducting an audit of MWAA that is to be completed in the spring.
The appointments come out of new congressional legislation introduced by Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) to expand the board from 13 to 17 members. Virginia would get two new appointments; Maryland and the District would each get one more. Before the bill was passed, Virginia had five representatives, the District and the federal government had three, and Maryland had two.
Wolf’s legislation also prohibits members from serving past the end of their terms. Members could also be “removed for cause.” The governors of Maryland and Virginia and the mayor of the District could remove their respective members. The executive branch of the federal government already had that authority.
The airports board voted in September to authorize Chairman Charles Snelling to publicly oppose Wolf’s efforts.
Disagreement abounds about whether, and when, the new board appointments will go into effect. “Federal law now says they can be appointed and the others are to be removed when their term expires,” Dan Scandling, Wolf’s chief of staff, said Tuesday.
But officials at MWAA said they are still reviewing the legality of the appointments, and some think the District and Virginia might have to approve a change to the federal compact that dictates how the board is governed. Wolf’s office disagreed.
“Our understanding is that it does not need approval from D.C. and Virginia,” Scandling said. “We have been told that the compact does not apply. That federal law trumps it.”
Stottlemyer previously served as an executive vice president at Inova Health System. He also worked as president and chief executive of the National Federation of Independent Business. He also co-founded Apogen Technologies, an information technology firm, and served as president of McGuire Woods Consulting, one of Virginia’s most powerful and influential lobbying firms, which has close ties to McDonnell’s administration.
Stottlemyer, who served on boards for other Republicans governors, also sits on the boards of Virginia Commerce Bank, the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.
He is a major Republican donor, contributing more than $100,000 to candidates in the past 15 years, including $20,000 to McDonnell’s political action committee, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonprofit tracker of money in politics.
Merrick, a wealthy co-founder of an enterprise software company and a newcomer to politics, ran this month to replace Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple (D-Arlington), who is retiring as a state senator.
She contributed more than $50,000 of her own money to the campaign, hoping to ride a Republican wave to victory in a Democratic-leaning district dominated by reliably liberal Arlington County. She lost to Arlington County Board member Barbara A. Favola (D).
McDonnell campaigned for Merrick, who also donated money to McDonnell — $2,100 to his campaign for governor and inaugural committee, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.