State forces Cap­i­tal Metro to ID hope­fuls

List of top job can­di­dates shows ap­pli­cants from Tampa, Seat­tle

Austin American-Statesman - - FRONT PAGE - By Ben Wear

to take charge of agency next month. Linda Wat­son, the Or­lando, Fla., tran­sit chief who last month was named Cap­i­tal Metro’s new leader, pre­vailed over a peer ex­ec­u­tive down the road in Tampa, a Seat­tle trans­porta­tion chief whose per­for­mance had been a po­lit­i­cal is­sue be­fore she re­signed and a New Jersey Tran­sit of­fi­cial, among oth­ers

fter the of­fice of Texas At­tor­ney Gen­eral Greg Abbott re­jected the claim of Cap­i­tal Metro and its search con­sul­tant that such in­for­ma­tion on the can­di­dates can be legally with­held, the agency on Mon­day re­leased the names of the orig­i­nal six semi­fi­nal­ists.

How­ever, the agency did not re­lease the names of two other semi­fi­nal­ists who were added to the short list and in­ter­viewed af­ter two oth­ers dropped out.

The iden­ti­ties of three of the semi­fi­nal­ists were al­ready pub­lic knowl­edge: Wat­son; fel­low fi­nal­ist Deb­o­rah Wa­then Finn, a New Jersey trans­porta­tion con­sul­tant; and Doug Allen, Cap­i­tal Metro’s in­terim gen­eral man­ager. The other three were David Ar­mijo, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Hills­bor­ough Area Re­gional Tran­sit Author­ity in Tampa; Grace Cruni­can, who stepped down in De­cem­ber as di­rec­tor of the Seat­tle Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion af­ter her depart­ment’s han­dling of a large snow­storm drew heavy pub­lic crit­i­cism; and Carol Wise, who be­came deputy gen­eral man­ager for bus op­er­a­tions at New Jersey Tran­sit in 2008.

Ar­mijo and Wise with­drew their names from con­sid­er­a­tion in late April.

Wat­son, who has led the tran­sit agency in Or­lando since 2004, emerged from a sev­eral-month, na­tion­wide search to be­come Cap­i­tal Metro’s next chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer. Wat­son is ex­pected to be­gin work here in mid-Au­gust.

The news­pa­per had asked in an open records request for the names, work­places and home cities of the semi­fi­nal­ists, as well as agency board e-mails on the mat­ter, on April 20, when the search was still un­der way. Cap­i­tal Metro and its New York-based search con­sul­tant, Gil­bert Tweed As­so­ci­ates, ar­gu­ing that re­leas­ing the names would con­sti­tute giv­ing away “trade se­crets” of the con­sul­tant, for­warded the request to the at­tor­ney gen­eral for a rul­ing.

Abbott’s of­fice, in a July 6 opin­ion re­ceived in the States­man news­room Mon­day, said that the in­for­ma­tion re­quested did not meet

‘We have spent a lot of time and en­ergy al­ready in this ef­fort. There’s quite a lot of prece­dent (in Texas law) that in­di­cates we couldn’t be suc­cess­ful. And we un­der­stand that.’

AlexAn­drA Tosi

Prin­ci­pal con­sul­tant

that stan­dard and that the names and other in­for­ma­tion should be re­leased.

Cap­i­tal Metro ini­tially re­sisted re­leas­ing the names Mon­day, ar­gu­ing that Gil­bert Tweed should have time to con­sider ap­peal­ing the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s de­ci­sion. But Gil­bert Tweed prin­ci­pal con­sul­tant Alexan­dra Tosi told the States­man on Mon­day that her com­pany had al­ready de­cided against that op­tion and that she had in­formed Cap­i­tal Metro last week of that de­ci­sion in an e-mail.

“We have spent a lot of time and en­ergy al­ready in this ef­fort,” Tosi said. “There’s quite a lot of prece­dent (in Texas law) that in­di­cates we couldn’t be suc­cess­ful. And we un­der­stand that.”

The States­man, be­cause its April open records request ap­plied only to the first six can­di­dates, asked Cap­i­tal Metro on Mon­day for the names of the two semi­fi­nal­ists added later in the process. Cap­i­tal Metro of­fi­cials, de­spite the at­tor­ney gen­eral’s writ­ten opin­ion, said that an of­fi­cial open records request would be re­quired for the ad­di­tional can­di­dates. The States­man filed such a request Mon­day.

Linda Wat­son

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