WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA) - A gubernatorial ousting of a member of the Airports Authority board and subsequent lawsuit is creating uncertainty over what happens next.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell ousted Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board member Dennis Martire on Thursday, June 14th. Martire fired back with a lawsuit seeking to block the action. His supporters called his removal unjustified.
But McDonnell's office said the "Governor exercised his authority under state and federal law to remove MWAA board member Dennis Martire for cause." Martire came under scrutiny for his $9192 flight to Prague for a conference, among other expenses totaling $38,000 over five years.
That's one of many large expenses highlighted in the Department of Transportation Inspector General's report on MWAA. It turned up lavish lunches and travel expenditures by several board members.
The board confirmed that a large fee was paid to Gregory Shea, an expert in organizational psychology. MWAA says, over a three-year period, it paid Shea $173,000.
MWAA said in statement that Gregory Shea "has provided assistance in a wide range of activities, including helping the Board and senior executives plan and prepare for numerous meetings; providing assistance with a series of transitions in the Board and with executive leadership; consulting to the Chairman and President concerning important organizational change issues; and assisting with the executive search for a new President in 2010-2011."
MWAA also says Shea helped develop and plan working retreats for Board members and senior managers.
Board member Tom Davis said "He was well-paid, he wasn't cheap. But members were not speaking. Somebody needed to come and get members to work together."
Removing Martire from the board was step in a positive direction, according to Rep. Frank Wolf, ( R) 10th-District.
"Things were done that should not have been done. Travel was done that should not have been done. Actions were done that should not have been done. Meetings were done in closed sessions, private sessions," said Wolf.
Congressman Wolf is adding an amendment to transportation legislation on Tuesday, June 19, 2012, that will put in place a permanent inspector general overseeing MWAA.
Democrat Gerald Connolly, (D) 11-District, agrees with more oversight, but calls Martire's removal unjustified and unwarranted. He says the ouster was a "smokescreen" for the Governor's to pack both the MWAA and Metro boards with his people and rid them of pro-labor people.
Martire is vice president and Regional Manager of the Laborers' International Union of North America. He was appointed by Governor Tim Kaine. To take Martire's place, Governor Bob McDonnell appointed Caren Merrick, co-founder of Webmethods. She tells 9News Now that she's already been sworn in for the office. But Martire wants his seat back, and has filed a lawsuit over his ouster.
Merrick says she's expecting to be seated at the MWAA board meeting on Wednesday.
But the board may decide to not seat her and wait until the court decides on Martire's lawsuit. Congressman Gerald Connelly says the only other time a governor tried to remove a MWAA board member, the courts refused.