State forces Capital Metro to ID hopefuls
List of top job candidates shows applicants from Tampa, Seattle
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.’
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.