Phil Washington's FAA Nomination Derailed by LA Metro Whistleblower Who Had Been Vilified by Los Angeles Officials, Press

Phil Washington's FAA Nomination Derailed by LA Metro Whistleblower Who Had Been Vilified by Los Angeles Officials, Press
FAA Nominee Phil Washington answers questions by Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC). CREDIT: Screenshot

On Saturday evening the news broke that Phil Washington, Joe Biden’s nominee to head the Federal Aviation Administration, had withdrawn his name. As we covered, White House sources blamed the withdrawal on “Republican attacks,” and many focused on Washington’s miserable performance in confirmation hearings as an additional reason for Washington’s withdrawal. While Washington’s aviation knowledge is indeed lacking (to put it mildly) and he’s clearly not competent for the role, the nomination wasn’t withdrawn because Phil Washington suddenly realized he wasn’t qualified for the job. The nomination was withdrawn because Phil Washington knew that his former employee, Jennifer Loew, who’d blown the whistle on the pay-to-play, $8,000/call sexual harassment hotline contract at LA Metro, was ready to testify before the Senate about Washington’s role in the scandal and about other corruption she witnessed while Washington was CEO Of LA Metro.

READ: Biden Taps Head of LA Metro to Lead Transportation Transition Team, Despite Two Ongoing Federal Criminal Investigations

Loew, who received a $625,000 settlement from LA County for retaliation, brought evidence to the press that the LA Metro’s no-bid sexual harassment hotline contract had been improperly awarded to a crony of powerful LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, and was purposely structured to be awarded in chunks worth less than $500,000 so the full Metro board wouldn’t have to vote on it. Loew had earlier raised alarms through LA Metro, telling internal investigators that Washington told her to pay at least one bill through the purchase order process usually used for office supplies so that Kuehl would owe him a political favor, and that the sole source, no-bid contract was wasteful and apparently awarded only because the recipient was the best friend of Kuehl, who also sits on the LA Metro board. Instead of looking into her concerns about both the awarding process and contract administration, investigators shared all of the information with Washington and Loew was retaliated against.

READ: FBI, LA County Sheriff Raid Home of Sup. Sheila Kuehl, County Hall of Administration, LA Metro HQ in Public Corruption Investigation

In September 2020 parts of Loew’s story were published, first by Bill Melugin, who was then with Fox’s Los Angeles affiliate, and Cece Woods of The Current Report. As usually happens in Los Angeles, for the most part the story was referred to as a conspiracy theory or baseless partisan attack, if it was mentioned at all in mainstream sources, even though there isn’t a single Republican elected to partisan office in the city or county. (The one remaining Republican is on the Board of Supervisors, but that’s a nonpartisan seat.) It wasn’t until search warrants were executed at five locations simultaneously in the early morning hours of September 14, 2022 that the s**t really hit the fan.

In an interview given as the warrant was being executed, then-Supervisor Sheila Kuehl reacted in a live interview on Fox LA, blasting Loew. When asked what the warrant was about, Kuehl referred to Loew as having an “obsession” with the contract:

My belief is that it’s based on this old obsession by the Metro employee that some contract was let out at my behest with which I had nothing to do. I didn’t even know about the contract. So it’s all based on a very slim thread, and it’s clearly harassment.

In an article at LAIst, Kuehl stuck with the same theme:

Kuehl said the investigation was sparked by “a disgruntled employee at Metro who was let go, who became obsessed” with Metro’s contract with Peace Over Violence. The former employee “claimed I had something to do with the contract, which is completely false,” Kuehl said. “It didn’t even come to the [Metro] board, it was so small.”

About six weeks later, right before the election, the LA Times published a joint hit piece, aimed at both Loew and then-Sheriff Alex Villanueva. The headline “Inside L.A. County sheriff’s dubious corruption probe of Sheila Kuehl, another watchdog” lets readers know exactly where they’re going with the piece — by “another watchdog” they’re referring to Kuehl’s friend Patti Giggans, also named in the search warrant, who is Kuehl’s appointee to the Citizens Oversight Commission.

A Times review of the case found it is based on the testimony of just one person, a former Metro employee named Jennifer Loew, who brought her bribery complaint to at least four law enforcement agencies, but found a receptive audience only at the Sheriff’s Department. The Times found no evidence to support Loew’s allegation.

Oh, well, let’s just stop there, if The Times found no evidence…

The story went on to characterize Loew as an irrational, vindictive person who had anger problems.

The hotline was overseen by Loew, she and Giggans said. Peace Over Violence routinely competes for contracts, Giggans said, and would have done so for this one if Metro had asked.

“We followed all her rules,” Giggans said of Loew. “Then she turned on us.”By 2019, Loew was running into disciplinary trouble on the job, records show. Multiple subordinates complained that she “engaged in abusive, humiliating or demeaning conduct,” according to court papers filed by Metro’s inspector general.

An internal investigation concluded that Loew had done nothing illegal, but was “intimidating” to staff. A county attorney told her in a letter that Metro would “not tolerate conduct of this nature.”

Giggans claims that they would have bid on it had they been asked but that Metro loved their ideas and just gave them the contract without asking for competitive bids.

Giggans worked informally with Metro on an ad strategy and slogan: “It’s Off Limits.” Giggans then told the agency that if it wanted more help, the nonprofit would need to be paid, she said in an interview. Peace Over Violence received $105,000 for consulting on the anti-harassment campaign in 2015 and 2016, purchase orders show.

“Purchase orders show,” the Times writes, referring to invoices Loew questioned Washington about, and which Loew was ordered to pay so Washington would be in Kuehl’s good graces.

The consulting work turned into something larger after three Metro board members — Supervisor Mike Antonovich, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Kuehl — instructed staff to curtail harassment in part by hiring an outside group to offer victims “non-law enforcement support.”

Peace Over Violence proposed a 24-hour hotline for $160,000 a year. Metro “loved the idea” and didn’t invite any other groups to bid, Giggans said.

However, a July 2016 email from Giggans to representatives from both Kuehl’s and Garcetti’s office — not Metro — shows that it was Garcetti’s office who came up with the “initial idea for METRO to do more.”

July 28, 2016 email between LA Metro, Sheila Kuehl’s office, and then-LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s office regarding no-bid contract for Peace Over Violence sexual harassment hotline.

That email also references the difficulty Giggans was having in getting the initial $75,000 invoice paid, and Giggans asks for assistance in getting the bill paid.

And, a February 2016 email from Giggans to one of her employees after a call with Alex Wiggans, Stephanie LaRue, and Glen Becerra of Metro, and “Madeline who is from Sheila Kuehl’s office” saying, “We were told to be generous in our budgeting. They will pay us to do this. It’s an expansion.”

Adam Loew has been in touch with several Senate offices about the corruption his wife uncovered at Metro, and if released from her non-disclosure agreement in the retaliation settlement Jennifer Loew was willing to travel to Washington to testify before Congress about this issue and other instances of nepotism, retaliation, and corruption, according to information given to RedState on background. The office of Eric Garcetti, former Mayor of Los Angeles who is now Ambassador to India, was directly involved in this instance of alleged corruption, as shown in the emails above, and in others. Washington’s right-hand man Alex Wiggins would not be any help, as he’s currently in hot water in New Orleans, where he bounced to after facing several employment investigations in Los Angeles. So, it looks like two things are in play here: Washington didn’t want to be humiliated by these hearings on Capitol Hill even more than he already has, and the Biden administration exhausted their political goodwill by getting Eric Garcetti confirmed.

It’s not often that a politician or corrupt bureaucrat actually gets what they deserve, but it’s nice to see it when it happens.

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