On Wednesday, as MWAA’s directors take up a new ethics policy, Moore will be in the room, listening intently.
For months, MWAA has been buffeted by criticism amid disclosures of questionable no-bid contracts, expensive international trips and other ethical troubles. Moore’s job is part of an aggressive effort by federal officials to increase scrutiny of the powerful authority. The vote Wednesday marks a significant turning point in the authority’s effort to repair its reputation.
A little over a month into her new job, the 33-year-old former state prosecutor in Virginia has immersed herself in efforts to revamp MWAA’s ethics and travel policies.
Although many of the incidents that have come to light in inspector general reports and news accounts do not appear to violate MWAA policies, they have damaged the authority’s credibility.
MWAA operates the region’s two federally owned airports, Reagan National and Dulles International, as well as the Dulles Toll Road. MWAA also is overseeing construction of the Silver Line, Metro’s $5.6 billion rail extension to Dulles, a project that has made the authority the subject of intense scrutiny.
“I am working with them to restore public trust in [MWAA] as a capable body able to manage a large public project,” Moore said in a recent interview at DOT’s headquarters in Southeast Washington. “It is a public board; I’m not sure if that got lost along the way.”
MWAA was created in 1987 by an interstate compact. Its board includes appointed representatives from the District, Maryland, Virginia and the federal government. But because MWAA is neither a federal nor a state entity, its officials have long maintained that they do not have to adhere to many of the rules and regulations that apply to federal or state agencies. They note that the authority is funded not by tax dollars but by concession and passenger fees and tolls.
But the notion of MWAA as an autonomous body is changing.
“I’ve told them from the beginning, they need to get their act together if they want to have any credibility,” LaHood said. “This is a big deal and I want to make sure it is done correctly. I want to make sure Washingtonians know that someone is keeping an eagle eye on these folks.”
Moore has done a terrific job, LaHood said.
“She’s pointed [MWAA] in a direction that nobody ever believed could happen,” he said.
Moore joined the DOT general counsel’s office in 2008 after working as an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Portsmouth. At DOT, she quickly earned a reputation as serious and thorough, and came to specialize in procurement and ethics issues — just the skills LaHood was seeking at MWAA.