Pennsylvania Turnpike chief resigns, cites health concerns
Pennsylvania Turnpike CEO Roger Nutt submitted his resignation on Tuesday, effective Oct. 31, citing health reasons.
Nutt, 72, of Harrisburg said he's been treated for irregular heartbeat and a leaking heart valve in the past year. His tenure, which began in March 2011, has included an increase in the turnpike's construction program, opening of a portion of the Mon/Fayette Expressway, a jump in turnpike debt and a push toward more use of E-ZPass and fewer toll collectors.
“I have decided that for my long-term health, it is best that I resign ... It would be my intent, with your approval, to work from home for the remainder of my time with the (turnpike) commission. I would be able to consult or advise if needed,” Nutt said in a letter to the commission.
Nutt, who had 28 years of experience as a senior-level official with New Jersey transportation agencies, is the father of the former campaign manager and chief of staff for Gov. Tom Corbett, who selected Nutt for the job. Though the governor doesn't hire the CEO, he appoints the board members who do.
“We have five turnpike commissioners who ultimately make those decisions,” spokesman William Capone said. Nutt's sudden departure occurs as another top official, state Park Director John Norbeck, says he was forced out on Friday.
Corbett spokeswoman Christine Cronkright called Norbeck's departure a “personnel decision.”
“However, the speculation that John Norbeck's departure had anything to do with philosophical differences regarding resource development on state park lands is puzzling and inaccurate, especially considering the fact that there have been no plans to lift the moratorium on drilling on state park lands since the governor took office.”
“I really don't know,” Norbeck said when asked why he was told to leave.
Norbeck was told his last day would be Friday, but he got a two-week extension. He said he's working on a transition plan for his successor, and his last day is scheduled for Oct. 19.
Nutt had critics as well. State Rep. Pete Daley, D-California, asked Nutt and Turnpike Chief Operating Officer Craig Shuey to resign in September because of the agency's $7 billion debt, much of which has come in recent years as the agency was required to funnel turnpike money to PennDOT to help pay for the state's transportation needs.
Shuey will serve as interim CEO after Nutt leaves until a replacement is named, according to the commission.
A state grand jury has investigated the commission since 2009. According to a July court filing, the investigation involves “employment practices, procurement practices and use of commonwealth resources to conduct political activities.”
“I would take Mr. Nutt at his word” that the resignation was for health reasons, said Corbett spokeswoman Kelli Roberts. “We're sorry to see him go, but we obviously respect his need to put his health first.”
Corbett isn't ready to announce a successor, she said.
Mike Wereschagin is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.