Airport nominee discusses old controversy, new hopes for DIA’s future in FOX31 interview

Local News

DENVER (KDVR) – The man who hopes to run Denver’s airport starting next month is still answering questions about his last job.

Phillip Washington was nominated earlier this month by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock to head Denver International Airport. He’s been meeting with city council members in recent days, who will vote on his nomination in the next couple weeks.

He’s also been talking to reporters, trying to clear up questions about a controversy at his last job. Washington just stepped down as head of the Los Angeles public transportation system.

“Well, it’s baseless, first of all,” Washington told FOX31, when asked about a whistleblower’s allegations of unethical behavior, cronyism and pay-to-play politics at L.A. Metro.

FOX 11 in Los Angeles first reported the claims from L.A. Metro employee Jennifer Loew last year. She claimed the transit agency’s board members awarded no-bid contracts to a charity run by their friends. Washington was named in a criminal warrant related to the investigation, but he says that initial warrant was thrown out.

“I think it’s a disgruntled employee. It’s a disgruntled employee who was disciplined, and I think she is responding to that discipline,” Washington told FOX31.

Washington has spent the last several years as CEO of L.A. Metro. Before that, he spent 15 years in leadership at RTD here in Denver. And that combined experience, along with a long resume that includes 24 years of military service and a recent appointment to head President Biden’s transition team on transportation and infrastructure, makes him the right person at the right time to run Denver International Airport — an airport that is undergoing a massive, $770 million Great Hall construction project that is months behind schedule and millions over budget.

“I think the big challenge is getting the Great Hall project done, understanding that the first priority is the security vulnerabilities. I mean that was the first intent of the project,” Washington said.

He also sees RTD’s A-line to the airport as a real asset, now that most of the kinks are worked out of the airport train. And he believes his RTD experience will help smooth over any other issues that may arise in the future.

“Yes, there were some bumps in the road, but that line will run for the next 75 to 100 years,” Washington said.

Speaking of the future, Washington has ambitious plans.

“I want DEN (Denver’s airport) to be the #1 airport in the world, I want us to be the most sustainable airport in the world, the greenest airport in the world,” he said.

And his ambitions for DIA’s future extend far beyond the terminal.

“We haven’t even talked about the real estate around DEN. We have more space around DEN than any airport in the world, I believe. Definitely more than any in this country. So there is great potential. And those are revenue-generating things we can do,” he said.

If confirmed by the city council, Washington will start his new job as DIA’s new CEO in mid-July.

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