The comportment of board members of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority matters because the authority itself matters. In addition to overseeing the airports, it runs the Dulles Toll Road and, critically, the $6 billion Silver Line project to extend Metrorail to Dulles airport. Any whiff of profligacy or ethical fudging — and there’s been more than a whiff — subverts the board’s standing at a critical juncture of the construction of the Silver Line, one of the nation’s biggest infrastructure ventures.
Mr. Martire’s ostensible purpose in Sardinia was to take part in a forum, at a luxurious seaside resort, that was sponsored by the Airports Council International, an industry group. However, the forum’s focus — small regional airports in Europe — was a tangential topic for U.S. airports, to put it mildly. Of the 160 or so delegates who registered for the event, he was almost the only American, according to conference organizers. And no wonder: The forum was irrelevant to U.S. airport executives.
On returning from his Sardinian adventure, Mr. Martire filed an expense claim for $10,586, most of it for a business-class air ticket. (Despite travel guidelines urging frugality, most board members seem to fly business class routinely.) He also wrote a brief trip report, noting that smartphones can be useful tools for airports to communicate with passengers.
In a statement, Mr. Martire defended the trip as “directly relevant to my duties as a Board member” and “fully legitimate and absolutely consistent with [airports authority] policies.” However, he did not explain how it was relevant or answer any of our specific questions — for instance, why he chose to attend a conference in Sardinia when the same sponsor holds almost 20 conferences and seminars in the United States and Canada each year.
Mr. Martire, who was appointed to the airports board by then-Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), is not the only big spender on the airports board. Some other members, though not all, have indulged a taste for expensive wine, fancy meals and conferences in charming venues, all at the authority’s expense. Last year, under pressure, the board reluctantly shelved plans to spend $7.2 million on a three-story addition to its headquarters at National Airport and to double the size of its boardroom, along with adding a $350,000 multimedia system.