While it’s been widely reported the agency Denver International Airport CEO nominee Phil Washington used to head is under investigation, court documents show Washington was specifically named in a search warrant.
Washington left his post as head of LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority at the end of May, after his contract was up. But before he left, the LA County Sheriff’s Department served a search warrant on the organization and the LA County District Attorney confirmed its Public Integrity Division is reviewing the matter.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock nominated Washington to become DIA’s next CEO, to replace retiring Kim Day. His office has been staunchly defending Washington all week to Denver City Council members and the media. In emails to Denver City Council members after the Denver Gazette broke the story in Colorado Tuesday, Hancock's office stated Washington was not named in an ongoing investigation:
“All claims against Mr. Washington specifically were found to be baseless. He is not the subject of any criminal or grand jury investigation, nor is he named in any criminal warrant, nor does he participate in, or belong to, any organizations that exclude or discriminate against women or LGBTQ people."
The investigation surrounds LA Metro’s contractor Peace Over Violence, which handled LA Metro’s “Off Limits” sexual harassment counseling hotline. Search warrants were served in February and March seeking: "Any and all contracts or agreements, between "'Peace Over Violence" and any organization, entity, or office under the control or management of Los Angeles County and/or the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors including but not limited to the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority." It also sought Off Limits call logs.
A Los Angeles Fox affiliate reported in September: “A months-long FOX 11 investigation has revealed that an L.A. Metro sexual harassment hotline operated by a local charity is currently costing taxpayers more than $8,000 per call after a series of no-bid contracts to operate the hotline were awarded to the best friend and campaign donor of L.A. County Supervisor & Metro board member Sheila Kuehl after her office privately pushed for Metro to hire the charity.”
A self-described whistleblower Jennifer Loew filed a civil lawsuit against LA Metro a year ago alleging improprieties in the way Peace Over Violence operated the sexual harassment counseling hotline. Loew’s family has been sending emails to elected officials and media outlets in the past year. Her husband, Adam Loew, emailed the Denver Gazette Thursday offering copies of the search warrant Washington is named in, and an interview with Loew.
But Washington describes Loew as disgruntled after she was passed over for a promotion, and was investigated herself.
In a statement Mayor Hancock’s office emailed to councilmembers Tuesday night, and obtained by the Denver Gazette, he states:
“All of these untrue allegations stem from one LA Metro employee whose supervisory responsibilities were taken away after an independent investigation,” Washington’s statement read. “She has organized a well-orchestrated attempt to assassinate my character and reputation by alleging untrue things that involved programs that she herself managed. Moreover, I do not belong to any organization that excludes or discriminates against women or LGBTQ people.”
LA Metro sent the following statement to the Denver Gazette earlier this week: “The employee (Loew) initially claimed that she was discriminated against because she is Caucasian, but she has abandoned those claims and has now sued LA Metro alleging various whistleblower complaints about contracts at the agency. Those complaints have been shared with law enforcement. The agency is not aware of any improprieties related to the awarding of any of these contracts. The main contract in question was managed by the employee herself, and her complaints were aired only after her subordinates were removed by Metro.”
LA Metro has also filed a motion to quash the search warrant, stating: “The MTA Search Warrant seeks to compel the production of items pursuant to a statute that cannot be properly applied to the MTA under these circumstances ... This ill-conceived and legally flawed warrant should be quashed.”
A judge has yet to rule on the motion.
Other court documents allege Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva served the warrants for political reasons, not a legitimate investigation.
“It is becoming more and more clear that the MTA Search Warrant is not a tool the LASD is using to conduct any sort of legitimate inquiry into suspected criminal wrongdoing, but rather is a tool the Los Angeles County Sheriff, in a blatant abuse of his office, is using to harass and target his political enemies,” according to an April 6 Reply in Support of the Motion to Quash filed by Robert Dugdale of Kendall Brill & Kelly LLP.
Denver City Council members could start meeting with Washington as early as next week. A vote on his appointment could come in mid July.