“I bring a lot to the table — I have a very diversified skill set, both in business and on the production side,” she said Friday in a telephone interview.
Reiley, a former chairman of the MWAA board, has been battling breast cancer since 2010, so her resignation was not altogether surprising. But her departure from the board came at a critical time for the MWAA, with the authority building Metro’s new Silver Line.
The $6 billion project to extend Metro to Dulles International Airport is one of the region’s biggest infrastructure projects, and Reiley was one of its biggest champions, chairing the MWAA board committee overseeing it.
In a Feb. 15 letter to Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), Reiley wrote that “due to a health challenge I currently face, it has become abundantly clear to me that my priorities need to shift so that I may concentrate my time on my health, my family, and my work.”
What did not become public for months was that soon after leaving the board, Reiley started serving as a senior adviser to the MWAA’s CEO, Jack Potter. It was a post that allowed her to continue working on the Dulles Rail project and that provided her with health insurance.
In an interview, Potter said that he decided to hire Reiley and he determined how much she would be paid. She is one of 18 MWAA employees who are paid at least $180,000, according to the agency. Board members are not paid.
But exactly how her hiring came about and who else played a role in the decision remains unclear. MWAA correspondence obtained by The Washington Post through a public-records request show that Potter was conscious of how Reiley’s hiring might be viewed, at one point emphasizing to Reiley that she was being hired for her expertise, not because of her board service.
The sensitivity to perceptions is not surprising.
In a state divided over what its transportation priorities should be, the Silver Line’s considerable cost — and its symbolic importance as an investment in mass transit — has made the project a contentious issue for Virginia’s political leaders.
The MWAA’ s recurring weaknesses in corporate governance have only heightened critics’ concerns about the authority’s oversight of the Silver Line, and indeed McDonnell has been pushing for greater influence with the MWAA.
The authority, which operates Dulles and Reagan National airports and the Dulles Toll Road, is an interstate compact whose governing board is made up of members from the District, Maryland, Virginia and the federal government. It has 1,400 employees.
In recent months, disclosures of no-bid contracts, expensive board member travel and other issues have fed the political drumbeat about the MWAA. The Washington Examiner report about Reiley’s hiring provided more fodder for critics, and a scathing letter last month from U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and other officials appeared to validate many of the concerns.