TAMPA, Fla. — The CEO of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, or HART, will remain on the job for now but not without some assurances and safeguards as an outside investigation into the transit authority unfolds.
Last week, board members voted to approve an outside investigation into HART's leader, Adelee Le Grand. This week, the vote was on whether to suspend Le Grand during that investigation.
“I fully support a suspension,” board member Joshua Wostal said.
“With hesitation, I go for suspension,” said board member Luis Viera, citing advice from the board’s legal counsel.
But several on the board, including Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said they saw no reason for a suspension.
“I think it’s premature, and I disagree with placing her on leave at this time,” Castor said.
With a 6-6 tie, the motion to suspend Le Grand failed. Supporters were also concerned an estimated 60 days without the CEO could leave the transit authority floundering.
“And to me, that does seem disruptive,” said board member Rena Upshaw-Frazier. “Does more harm than good, potentially.”
The outside investigation by a local law firm will explore a recent rash of firings and resignations at HART. Some have made allegations of mismanagement and a toxic work environment under Le Grand’s leadership.
While not suspended, the board did ask Le Grand for her personal assurance she would not interfere with the outside investigation.
“I have no desire to interfere with the process,” Le Grand told them. “As I’ve stated before it’s my intention that the process moves forward as quickly as possible.”
Board members also voted 11-1 to set up an employee hotline so workers could report any issues including allegations of harassment or intimidation.
“It’s not perfect,” said David Adams, the attorney leading the outside investigation, “but it does provide reasonable assurance that employees will at least have a method for reaching out to board council and the board in the event that they feel that they’ve been pressured one way or the other in the investigation.”
Le Grand repeated her position that she welcomes the investigation.
She describes herself as an introvert, and although not usually emotional, she was moved, she said, by comments of support from drivers and other workers who say changes Le Grand is bringing to the transit authority are long overdue.
“My hope is that this will move as quickly as possible,” said Le Grand, “so that we can get some closure and we can continue moving forward and providing the best service possible to this community.”