The Los Angeles transportation agency formerly headed by Phil Washington, who has been nominated to be Denver International Airport’s next chief operating officer, is under investigation, an official with the L.A. County District Attorney’s office confirmed Monday.
According to a story published in the Los Angeles Daily News on Feb. 19, the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department served two warrants in February when Washington still headed the organization: one to L.A. Metro and the other to a nonprofit group called Peace Over Violence.
“The matter is being reviewed by our office’s Public Integrity Division,” a L.A. County District Attorney spokesperson said Monday via email.
Denver Mayor Michael Hancock nominated Washington, the former head of the Regional Transportation District until 2015, to be DIA’s next CEO. Washington would replace current CEO Kim Day, who is retiring in July after 13 years in the position. Washington would need to be approved by the Denver City Council.
Attempts to reach Washington were unsuccessful and a DIA spokesperson said he would not be conducting any interviews with the media until after the council’s decision.
A spokeswoman from Mayor Hancock’s office said they were aware of the case before Washington was nominated.
"We are aware of the claims brought by a Los Angeles Metro employee against current and former members of the Los Angeles Metro and its Board of Directors,” Theresa Marchetta said in an emailed statement. “A complaint naming Phil Washington was dismissed by a federal district court judge and he is not an individually named defendant in any pending lawsuits brought by this employee.
"Mr. Washington is known for his many years of exceptional service to the Denver community. We have no concerns about these claims and are confident they have no bearing on his qualifications, character or reputation."
Peace Over Violence was under contract with L.A. Metro to handle its “Off Limits” sexual harassment counseling hotline, according to the Daily News. The story notes that: "While it is unclear what exactly the Sheriff’s Department is investigating, Metro’s sole sourced, no-bid contract with Peace Over Violence for the sexual harassment hotline has faced (media) scrutiny recently."
As L.A. Metro’s CEO, Washington managed an $8 billion budget and oversaw $18 billion to $20 billion in capital projects. It has 11,000 employees and transports 1.2 million boarding passengers daily on 2,200 clean-air buses and six rail lines. Washington's contract was up in May.
The L.A. County Sheriff's Department did not provide any details or information about the status of the investigation, or if it is still active, despite multiple requests from The Denver Gazette since Wednesday.
Denver City councilmembers, including Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, are set to question Washington about the matter.
“The timing of any public official’s departure during an ongoing criminal investigation where the facts are not clear is certainly of concern,” CdeBaca said in an emailed statement. “This would be the type of situation that would require a higher level of scrutiny in the City Council confirmation process that our new ordinance was intended to address. I look forward to hearing all of the facts before making my decision about whether to vote to confirm Mayor Hancock’s nominee for the highest paid position in the city.”
The council will start discussing the confirmation and schedule interviews toward the end of June, and it could come before the full council in a vote in mid-July, according to council staff.
L.A. Metro did not respond to email requests for information Friday and Monday. A spokesman confirmed to the Daily News in February it was served a warrant. “However, given the limited information contained in the warrant, we cannot determine the nature of LASD’s investigation,” the spokesman said.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti praised Washington’s work in a quote from the news release announcing his appointment as DIA’s CEO, saying in part, “In L.A., Phil oversaw the largest infrastructure program in the United States and pioneered groundbreaking initiatives to address climate change, increase economic opportunity, and expand free transit.”
Washington was also picked to lead the Biden/Harris transportation transition team “helping review and set the policy agenda and procedures of the U.S. Department of Transportation.”
Denver Gazette reporter Hannah Metzger contributed to this report.