Sen. Ted Cruz on Monday called on the Senate to slow down consideration of President Biden’s nominee to lead the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in light of new information that the candidate has been accused of discriminatory and retaliatory practices as CEO of Denver International Airport (DIA).
The nominee, Phil Washington, is scheduled to appear at a confirmation hearing on March 1 at the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. But Cruz, the top Republican on that committee, says senators should investigate these new charges against Washington before considering the nominee.
“Mr. Washington’s hearing needs to be delayed until the Committee has time to investigate new concerns about his nomination,” Cruz said.
Washington was already struggling to get confirmed before the new lawsuit was revealed. He was first nominated last year and failed to advance, and Republicans argued that Washington has limited experience in the aviation industry. Soon after he became CEO of DIA in 2021, reports surfaced that Washington was involved in an investigation into corruption allegations at LA Metro.
Washington was CEO at LA Metro, which is being investigated after it awarded a pricey contract for a sexual harassment hotline – the hotline was found to cost over $8,000 per call it received – that was awarded to a charity run by a close friend of an LA Metro board member. Washington has denied wrongdoing, but Cruz said that old scandal is reason enough for the Senate to move slowly on the nomination.
“It’s bad enough that Mr. Washington has zero aviation safety experience and is entangled in an ongoing, unresolved criminal probe of public corruption at LA Metro,” Cruz said.
Cruz argued the additional news of possible discriminatory practices at DIA is another reason for the Senate to pause. He said that Washington gave senators no indication of this new problem, and that senators need time to examine the facts before he is whisked through the Senate.
“Last week, we discovered he failed to disclose to the committee that he’s been named in a new lawsuit alleging discriminatory and retaliatory practices at Denver’s airport,” Cruz said. “He also failed to provide to the Committee more than 18 hours of speeches and remarks as well as details concerning additional lawsuits involving him, all of which staff now must review.”
According to an Axios report this month, Washington was named in a recently filed federal lawsuit brought by the former DIA parking director alleging that the city of Denver allowed intolerable working conditions and ongoing threats to his job.
While under Washington’s leadership, Juarez, who is Hispanic, made numerous complaints about pay disparity, saying White colleagues received higher salaries, and complained about his then-supervisor making racist comments.
“My client was continually making complaints” and directly contacted Washington at least twice for help, Juarez’s attorney, Steven Murray, told Axios. Murray claims that both attempts went unanswered, and alleges that Juarez was subject to a series of retaliatory actions against him, including a notice of misconduct, threats of termination and a bad performance review.
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