Corruption probe could sink Biden FAA pick

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Denver Airport CEO Phillip Washington, the president's nominee to head the agency, is named in a California search warrant related to a public corruption investigation.
Denver Airport CEO Phillip Washington, the president's nominee to head the agency, is named in a California search warrant related to a public corruption investigation. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Denver Airport

A Los Angeles public corruption investigation has the potential to derail the bid of Phillip Washington to become FAA administrator

Currently the CEO of Denver Airport, Washington received the nomination of President Joe Biden to head the FAA in July. However, a recently unveiled California search warrant names Washington as part of an alleged scheme in which $816,000 in Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) contracts were awarded to a nonprofit called Peace Over Violence without a competitive bidding process. 

Funds from the contract were designated for a phone line administered by Peace Over Violence that could be used by transit riders to report sexual harassment. Washington headed the MTA at the time the contracts were awarded. An August 2020 investigation by Fox 11 News in Los Angeles showed that just 13 sexual harassment-related calls had come into the hotline that year, costing taxpayers more than $8,400 per call. 

The warrant states that Peace Over Violence's administrator is close friends with Los Angeles County supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who is also one of 14 members of the MTA's board of directors. 

A whistleblower told investigators Washington's decision to sole-source contracts with Peace Over Violence was done to maintain favor with Kuehl. The whistleblower also said Washington ordered her to pay a $75,000 bill to Peace Over Violence in 2015, prior to any contract between the nonprofit and the MTA having been authorized. 

Washington said the allegations are false in a Sept. 16 interview with Bloomberg Government.

Confirmation hearings for Washington to head the FAA have not yet been scheduled. Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker, who is the top Republican on the committee, issued a statement last week that he is "deeply troubled" by Washington's inclusion in the corruption probe. 

"The committee's vetting process will require additional scrutiny and review into his leadership at LA Metro. I anticipate that this nominee's credibility will also be a key focus of the committee," Wicker said."

The FAA has been run by acting administrator Billy Nolen since the retirement of Steven Dickson at the end of March.

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