Jun 18, 2021 - News

DIA CEO nominee named in search warrant

A headshot of Phil Washington

Phillip Washington. Courtesy of the City of Denver

Phillip Washington Mayor Michael Hancock's new pick to lead Denver International Airport — is named in a search warrant seeking records of communications between him and other high-ranking officials, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: The previously undisclosed search warrant, obtained by Axios, is part of an ongoing review of criminal allegations against the Los Angeles Metro transit agency Washington led for the last six years.

  • The fact he is named directly contradicts statements the mayor's spokesperson made this week in staunch defense of Hancock's nominee.

What they're saying: On Tuesday, Hancock spokesperson Mike Strott told the Denver Post that Washington is "not the subject of any criminal investigation … nor is he named in any criminal warrant."

  • On Thursday, confronted with the new information, Strott told Axios he was unaware Washington was named in the warrant, but issued a new statement that Hancock's office continues to "look forward to his confirmation as (DIA's) first African American CEO."
  • Washington won't be speaking to reporters until that process is complete, Strott said.

What's new: According to the search warrant, detectives sought "any letters, emails (including emails sent via personal accounts), recordings, memos, notes, messages or other communications" between Washington and 10 other officials between Jan. 1, 2014, and Nov. 15, 2020.

  • The warrant also lists a slew of documents related to LA Metro's connection to Peace Over Violence, a nonprofit the agency has hired to run a sexual harassment hotline since 2017.
  • The sheriff's office confirmed the warrant, signed by a judge, was served Feb. 18. In a statement, it said that the investigation involved records from the nonprofit and LA Metro but would not provide further details.

Context: The warrant came amid a Metro employee whistleblower's claims of corruption.

  • The claims — and related media reports — suggest the transit agency awarded Peace Over Violence a bidless contract, approved by Washington, to run a hotline that was costing taxpayers about $8,000 per call.

Details: Among the nearly dozen other officials named after Washington in the search warrant is LA County Supervisor and Metro board member Sheila Kuehl, who wrote a letter to Denver council members this week defending Washington's merit.

  • Kuehl told Axios on Wednesday that Peace Over Violence was "probably the finest agency on domestic violence and sexual assault in our country."

The bottom line: The questions surrounding Washington — and the contradictory statements from the mayor's office — may complicate the confirmation process through the City Council, which now has new powers over mayoral decisions.


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