Lawmaker Calls for Conflict of Interest Probe

Virginia delegate Tim Hugo is calling for an investigation into the Dulles Metrorail project and the Metropolitian Washington Airport Authority’s demand that the project be governed by a wasteful Project Labor Agreement (PLA) that will drive up the price of construction unncessarily.

In a letter to Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuchinelli, Hugo claimed that the airports authority appears to have violated its own ethics code as well as state conflict-of-interest statutes by allowing board member Dennis Martire, vice president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, to vote for the agreement. Hugo charged that the union Martire represents would “reap a financial windfall” as a result of the agreement, the Washington Examiner reports. “Should MWAA move forward with this ill-advised measure, it will discriminate against nonunion construction firms and the 96 percent of construction workers in Virginia who have chosen to not belong to a union,” Hugo wrote. It will also “discourage competition; and ultimately greatly increase the overall cost of the project.”

Should contractors win the bid, the agreement would require them to provide union wages and benefits and hire union workers even though the construction will take place in Virginia, a right-to-work state — which means an employee can’t be forced to join a union to get a job.

Critics of the labor agreement, citing studies from the Boston-based, free-market think tank Beacon Hill Institute, said it will increase project costs by 12 percent to 18 percent. The cost of the second phase, originally estimated at $2.5 billion, has already jumped by over $1 billion, most of which will be paid by Loudoun and Fairfax counties and Dulles Toll Road users.