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Mayor’s nominee for Denver’s airport CEO: 'I’ve done nothing wrong'

Phil Washington sits down with Denver7 Investigates to answer questions
phil washington.jpg
Posted at 8:48 PM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-23 00:59:54-04

DENVER — Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s nominee for CEO of Denver International Airport says that an investigation into the transit authority he ran in Los Angeles stems from a disgruntled employee.

In the days after Hancock announced Phil Washington as his nominee for the city’s highest paid position, the administration was facing questions about Washington’s time as head of the Los Angeles County Transit Authority and an investigation into a no-contract bid.

In an interview with Denver7 Investigates, Washington asserts that he did nothing wrong and that the investigation is the result of a whistleblower who is a former employee. He maintains that he is the right person for the job.

“I hope that the people of Denver and the City Council will understand that there are disgruntled employees out there no matter how well of a job you do,” Washington said. “And so, I feel confident that we can bring value to this region in the infrastructure space.”

Since news of the investigation broke in Denver, at least two council members have said they would like to question Washington about the investigation prior to a vote on his approval. Denver City Council ultimately confirms the nominee and should vote on the matter within the next month.

The mayor’s office has supported Washington through this process and called the allegations “baseless.”

A report from FOX 11 in Los Angeles last year stated that L.A. Metro entered into a contract — which was signed by Washington — with a nonprofit to run a sexual harassment hotline after a series of no-contract bids, leaving the hotline to be run by a friend and donor to an L.A. County Supervisor and Metro Board member.

According to the story, a whistleblower alleged that the hotline cost taxpayers roughly $8,000 per call, as it was not widely used.

Washington, who also headed up the Regional Transportation District in Colorado from 2009-2015, said he’s tried to ignore such reports and outside claims that he should not be considered for the DIA job.

“I know what I'm about, and I have nothing to hide,” he said. “I know I can do a great job. I have done a great job. People look at my track record. That's all they have to look at. I've been successful at building a super team everywhere I've been.”

He also addressed rumors that he had been forced out of his position in Los Angeles.

“The truth is I was not pushed out. I went out there on a six-year contract, and I did the six-year contract,” Washington said. “And if you talk to any board member out there, including the mayor of Los Angeles, he will tell you that I was not pushed out. I could have signed a longer-term contract, but I wanted to come back to the Rocky Mountain region.”

Washington feels he is best suited to head up the airport because of his experience with infrastructure, and he believes he can lead the airport through its current projects, such as the Great Hall expansion.

“Now, what I want to focus on is how I can make the airport better, how I can accelerate the construction that's out there,” Washington said. “That includes the Great Hall.”

He added that he does not have concerns about being appointed by a term-limited mayor as Hancock has just over two years left on his third and final term.

“Infrastructure is multigenerational,” he said. “It continues. People and leaders come in where they come in. I will do everything that I possibly can to move that program forward.”

He would like to see DIA viewed as the No. 1 airport in the country when he’s done there.

“And I intend to do my best to make that happen,” he said.