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Port Authority of Allegheny County will be getting new CEO

Theresa Clift
| Friday, Feb. 24, 2017, 10:39 a.m.
Port Authority CEO Ellen McLean in her office on Friday, February 14, 2014.
Guy Wathen | Tribune-Review
Port Authority CEO Ellen McLean in her office on Friday, February 14, 2014.

Ellen McLean is out as Port Authority of Allegheny County CEO, the authority's board of directors decided Friday.

Board members voted to renew CEO Ellen McLean's contract, but only through June 1. Her three-year contract expired Jan. 31.

McLean, 63, of Shadyside was named CEO in 2014. As part of her severance, she will receive one year of her $224,771 salary and one year of health benefits, a Port Authority news release said.

Steve Palonis, president/business agent for ATU Local 85, the transit agency's union, was disappointed with the decision, he told the Tribune-Review.

“I would say the union wanted her to stay,” Palonis said. “She's been fair, she has an open-door policy and she's been as transparent as she could be.”

The union and authority approved a three-year contract in mid-December after months of negotiations.

Palonis said the decision to find a new CEO came from County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald said he is supportive of the board's decision but otherwise declined comment on that question.

“I think Ellen's done a good job in stabilizing the agency, but the plan all along was for that to be more of a temporary position,” Fitzgerald said.

To fill the post, Fitzgerald said a national search will be conducted similar to the one done to find Allegheny County Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis and Health Department Executive Director Karen Hacker, possibly using the same search firm, he said.

The search will likely also include meetings with businesses and riders who rely heavily on public transit, Fitzgerald said.

The item was not on the agenda for the Port Authority board meeting Friday but was instead introduced at the end of the meeting under “new business.”

D. Raja, who voted against the motion, said he'd like to see McLean keep the position for at least another year.

“I think her job has been spectacular in light of limited funds,” Raja said. “If we still have limited funds, I think the timing is not quite right to go look for a new CEO. Every additional dollar (we have), I'd like to see targeted toward service.”

The vote was 8-1. Board members Constance Parker and Rep. Dom Costa, D-Stanton Heights, were absent.

McLean attended the meeting to give a report, but left before the vote took place. Port Authority spokesman Adam Brandolph said McLean is not taking calls from the media.

“This transit agency has come so far from where we were just a few short years ago, which is why I believe now is the right time for me to pass the torch to someone else,” McLean said in a news release. “I am extremely proud of my time and service here, and I know that those with whom I've had the privilege to work — including our great partners at ATU Local 85 — will continue to build upon those achievements.”

Before she was named CEO, McLean had served as the agency's chief financial officer since 2010 and interim CEO since February 2013. Port Authority's board fired McLean's predecessor, Steve Bland, who had butted heads with Fitzgerald.

McClean previously worked as chief financial officer for the city of Pittsburgh under former Mayor Tom Murphy.

Theresa Clift is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-5669 or tclift@tribweb.com.

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