White House says it will let nomination process ‘unfold’ after Biden’s FAA pick named in search warrant


The warrant – issued earlier this month at multiple sites, including the home of Los Angeles County Supervisor for District 3 Sheila Kuehl – requested more information about potential favoritism in awarding the contracts by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority. The contracts were awarded to a non-profit organization run by a friend of Kuehl’s.

The nonprofit, called Peace Over Violence, has set up a sexual harassment hotline in conjunction with the transit authority. A copy of the mandate posted on the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department website shows that the department is seeking correspondence from several people, including Washington.

Washington served as the transit authority’s CEO for six years and the whistleblower allegations set out in the terms of reference accuse him of advancing the sole-source contract with the nonprofit ‘to stay’ in good graces “” with Kuehl, one of his direct supervisors. The warrant also alleges that Washington ordered a $75,000 bill be paid to the nonprofit through an ordering process typically reserved for office supplies.

“The witness further testified that Phillip Washington told him directly that he would prefer to pay the $75,000, so that he could then use it to his advantage when he needed a political favor from … Kuehl,” indicates the mandate.

Washington, currently CEO of Denver International Airport, denies the allegations set out in the warrant, saying Government Bloomberg Thursday: “All the allegations are false.” CNN has reached out to Washington for comment.
The hotline has also been criticized for its high cost to taxpayers. In 2020, a FOX 11 investigation found that the hotline was costing taxpayers about $8,000 per call, based on the small number of relevant sexual harassment-related calls made to the phone number.

Peace Over Violence defended its work, saying in a statement to Fox 11 in 2020, “This $8,000 per call calculation is a social calculation that does not express the seriousness of sexual harassment or the seriousness of the problem. … “Per our contract, all incoming calls to the hotline are legitimate. POV reports sexual harassment calls to Metro in accordance with their instructions. We cannot put a price on serving a survivor of violence and it does not There are no quotas associated with our hotlines. We are here to serve callers 24/7. This is not a per survivor service fee. Metro pays for the program, not per survivor.

CNN has contacted Peace Over Violence for comment.

Biden appointed Washington to head the FAA in July. Asked about the term and whether the president still has confidence in his FAA nominee, a White House official told CNN, “His nomination is pending in the Senate and will be evaluated throughout this process. We’ll let that process unfold, but I don’t have anything more.”

Washington has yet to schedule a confirmation hearing, and the top Republican on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee – which is considering his nomination – expressed concerns this week after the term was announced.

“When Mr. Washington was nominated in July, I expressed my skepticism about his lack of aviation experience. Now I am deeply disturbed to learn that the candidate was named in a search warrant which links him to allegations of corruption in LA Metro,” Mississippi Republican Sen. Roger Wicker, the Republican lead on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said in a statement.

Wicker added, “The committee’s vetting process will require additional scrutiny and scrutiny of his leadership at LA Metro. I anticipate this nominee’s credibility will also be a key focus of the committee.”

Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell, chair of the committee, told CNN in a statement, “The FAA needs strong leadership, and safety must always be the top priority. Every candidate for this critical position goes through the process of confirmation, which includes a careful and thorough examination of the individual’s qualifications. Mr. Washington’s nomination and his entire background are currently subject to this process.”

Washington was named to his current job as general manager of Denver International Airport — the world’s third-busiest airport — last year. He also led the Biden-Harris Transportation Department transition team and co-chaired the Biden/Harris Infrastructure Policy Committee.

Denver’s airport role was Washington’s first major leadership role solely focused on aviation. Some critics, including Wicker, expressed skepticism about supporting Washington’s nomination due to his broader lack of experience in the aviation industry.

However, before the announcement of the mandate, Washington had already obtained the approval of industrial groups. Another early endorser, John Hickenlooper, a Senate Commerce Committee member and Democrat from Colorado, continues to support Washington after the term, his office told CNN.

The search warrant is the latest development in an ongoing dispute between Kuehl, his colleagues on the County Board of Supervisors and LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.

Villanueva has been embroiled in a number of controversies during his tenure as sheriff and has a habit of targeting reporters and his critics. Kuehl, an outspoken critic of Villanueva, said she had nothing to do with the contract and suggested she was being targeted.

“The basis for this search was questionable and will be investigated. The raid on my house this morning by deputies with body armor and tactical gear was an effort to harass, intimidate and retaliate against a public figure who has openly criticized Alex Villanueva,” Kuehl tweeted, adding, “The early morning search of my house was a brutal attempt to intimidate and silence not only me, but many other government officials who work hard to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the communities they are meant to serve.”

Villanueva withdrew from the investigation.

Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascon said in a press release that they were not made aware of the search warrant or consulted beforehand, and since they did not review the warrant prior to its execution, they “do not intend to defend it if challenged before a court”. Gascon added that the case had already been reviewed by his office last year and that he “determined that the state of the evidence at the time did not prove criminal conduct beyond a reasonable doubt.”


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