The embattled board also approved new ethics rules that will prohibit members from accepting expensive gifts from people who do business with the authority.
MWAA’s actions mark an effort to turn a corner after a run of bad publicity over questionable board member travel, contracts with former board members and other ethics issues. But in keeping many details under wraps, MWAA’s handling of both the settlement and the new ethics policy raised questions about the authority’s commitment to transparency.
The vote on Wednesday on the new ethics policy had been expected, but it was only this week that the possibility began to emerge of a settlement in the dispute involving Martire.
In June, McDonnell removed Martire, a Democrat, from the board and appointed McLean businesswoman Caren Merrick to replace him.
At the board meeting Wednesday, MWAA’s directors announced the settlement, which allows Martire to resume his duties as a board member. But minutes after Martire took his place at the board table, he announced that he would resign from the 13-member board.
“This case would have gone on for months,” Martire said of his legal challenge. “While I think the fight was worth fighting, it just doesn’t make sense to spend millions on litigation.”
Although no laws or policies appear to have been violated in the incidents detailed in news accounts and an inspector general’s report, the revelations have fueled criticism of MWAA, whose role overseeing construction of Metrorail’s $5.6 billion Silver Line has made the authority the subject of intense scrutiny.
MWAA, whose board is made up of representatives from the District, Maryland, Virginia and the federal government, operates Reagan National Airport, Dulles International Airport and the Dulles Toll Road.
Martire was one of five Virginia representatives on the board and revelations about his expensive business travel made him a target of MWAA critics, including McDonnell, who has been working to expand his influence with the powerful authority.
“We are happy to put this unnecessary and expensive distraction behind us and look forward to continuing to improve the accountability of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority,” McDonnell said in a written statement.
The controversy over Martire’s conduct even spilled into a U.S. Senate race between former Virginia governors Timothy M. Kaine and George Allen. Martire, an official with the Laborers’ International Union of North America, was appointed to the board by Kaine, a Democrat. Allen, a Republican, had repeatedly called on Kaine to tell Martire to relinquish the MWAA seat. According to the Loudoun Times-Mirror, Kaine asked Martire in June to step aside.