LA probe raises fears of extended vacancy at FAA summit

“We have an agency that desperately needs a leader,” the first manager said. Like the others, this person spoke on condition of anonymity in order to be able to speak candidly about an agency with which he works.

Washington, CEO of Denver International Airport since last year, did not respond to POLITICO’s requests for comment on the investigation. But on Thursday, he told an airline pilots conference that “all the allegations are false,” Bloomberg reported.

The White House has declined to comment on the merits of the Los Angeles case, saying Washington’s confirmation continues to “work its way through the Senate.”

The research added a potential new complication for Washington, who led Biden’s transition team carrying portfolio. It comes as the FAA faces multiple challenges, including complaints about rampant flight delays and cancellations, fights over rolling out 5G broadband and changes to safety oversight following two crashes. fatalities of the Boeing 737 MAX.

A drone industry official said that the Congress timetable was “already working against” Washington, considering that the midterm elections are less than two months away. Washington has yet to even receive a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee, which is charged with vetting the nomination.

An airport lobbyist said he doubts Washington’s confirmation will happen this year, in light of the recent news. “I think the Republicans will keep trying to block things out and I don’t think the Democrats will be that eager to use a lot of political capital to push it through,” the lobbyist said.

Senator from Mississippi. Roger Osierthe committee’s top Republican, said Wednesday he was “deeply disturbed” by the news of the search warrant and called for a further review of the nomination.

But the airport lobbyist pointed to another potentially worrying sign for Washington: the public comments on his nomination by the Senate Commerce Chairman. Maria Canwell (D-Wash.), which the lobbyist says has been lukewarm from the start.

“When he was nominated, it was not what would be considered a typical response from a senator from your own party,” the lobbyist said. “His response would not have been one that would have pleased the White House.”

When Biden nominated Washington in July, Cantwell said she looked forward to “careful consideration” of her nomination. “I expect and will demand strong leadership from the next FAA Administrator,” she said.

Wednesday, asked to respond to the news of Washington having been mentioned in the search warrant, Cantwell told POLITICO that “every candidate for this critical position goes through the confirmation process, which includes a careful and thorough review of the individual’s qualifications,” and that Washington is “supporting that process now.”

Several other Democrats on the committee declined to comment or said they were unaware of the facts of the Los Angeles case.

Affidavit supporting search warrant includes whistleblower’s accusations of no-tender contract, totaling $890,000 over six years, that Los Angeles Metro issued to nonprofit which operated a sexual assault hotline. The whistleblower alleged that Washington ran the contract to curry favor with county supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who is friends with the head of the nonprofit.

Kuehl, whose home was raided this week, called the allegations “false” and described the whistleblower as a disgruntled former employee. She has already called for Villanueva to step down, and the nonprofit’s head sits on a civilian oversight board that has clashed with the sheriff on several occasions.

The charges have garnered media attention in the Los Angeles area for at least two years and were also brought up during Denver City Council’s deliberations over hiring Washington as the airport’s CEO of the year. last. At the time, the Denver Post reported, Washington accused the whistleblower of leading “a well-orchestrated attempt to assassinate my character and my reputation by alleging false things that involved programs she ran.” -same”.

Some of the aviation officials questioned whether Washington was just collateral damage from a messy political rivalry in Los Angeles, especially given accusations from other Los Angeles officials that the sheriff routinely abuses his office to launch politically motivated investigations of his critics.

“It’s too early to tell if this will torpedo his nomination, but it’s certainly not a positive development for the administration,” said a transportation consultant. “Allegations of corruption are significant in themselves and bear in mind that the contracting, grants and procurement process is an important part of the FAA’s mission.”

Until the Senate confirms a permanent chief, the FAA remains under Acting Administrator Billy Nolen, who previously led the agency’s security operations and — unlike Washington — has experience as a pilot. line.

Nolen’s experience could ease the pressure to confirm a new administrator, the airport lobbyist said.

“All other things being equal, would you like to have a confirmed administrator?” Sure, but I don’t think people sit around and say ‘Oh my God, we have to get Phil here’ over Billy,” the lobbyist said.

The lobbyist voiced his support for Washington and said that “if he gets the chance to be the administrator, he will do a good job. I just don’t know if – I mean, you have to go before the US Senate to do it.

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