Port Authority CEO Bland could be on way out
By Tom Fontaine
Published: Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, 7:20 a.m.
Steve Bland's days as CEO of the Port Authority of Allegheny County appear to be numbered as a result of pressure from County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, sources said.
Bland's six-year tenure came close to ending Friday morning, but Port Authority Chairman John A. Brooks said he decided to postpone the board's scheduled meeting for a week.
“I wanted to prolong this so we could come to a proper resolution,” Brooks said, declining to comment further.
Brooks, who has praised Bland's work often, said board members agreed to the postponement.
An authority staffer announced the delay to a crowded boardroom 25 minutes after the meeting was scheduled to start. Board members and Bland never appeared publicly.
Board members also agreed not to comment publicly on the issue, Brooks said.
Neither Fitzgerald nor Bland returned calls.
Sources said Fitzgerald has lined up enough members of the nine-person board to fire Bland if he doesn't resign.
Bland could get at least $92,500 if he's ousted, thanks to a three-year contract that took effect June 12, 2011. The contract allows the Port Authority to terminate the agreement at any time as long as Bland receives about half of his annual salary. Bland earns $185,000 a year.
Port Authority operates independently of the county, but the county executive appoints board members and signs off on county funding. That gives the county's top elected official considerable clout.
Fitzgerald has appointed four people to the board since taking office a year ago. The five other members are holdovers.
Bland would become at least the 12th high-ranking official from a county department or county-related agency to resign or be fired since Fitzgerald took office.
On Thursday night, some board members expressed mixed emotions on Bland's possible exit.
“It's a real dilemma for me. I'm not sure how I would vote. Steve has done a hell of a job in the six years he's been here, but I was appointed by the county executive and county council, so I also have a responsibility to make a decision based on that, as far as loyalty goes,” board member John Tague said.
In recent one-on-one meetings, Tague said Fitzgerald provided “a very long list of reasons” why he was dissatisfied with Bland. Tague declined to offer specifics.
Fitzgerald publicly criticized the agency in the spring over driver shortages that led to widespread delays, vowing changes would be made at the agency if operations didn't improve. He later directed the agency to eliminate T stops to speed up service and to find ways to improve fare collection.
His administration took a central role in contract talks between the Port Authority and its largest labor union and helped to broker a state bailout that prevented 35 percent service cuts.
“I've spent 10 years trying to get on this board to be a voice for the disability community. I didn't want to be sucked into politics,” said Tague, who has muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair.
Board member and Allegheny County Councilwoman Amanda Green Hawkins supported Bland.
“Steve has always been, from what I can see, very honest and forthcoming with providing information to the board, and he has great knowledge about transit and is well-respected around the country,” she said, noting he was a finalist last year for top transit posts in Atlanta and Jacksonville, Fla.
Board member Marvis Rainey described Bland's work as “exemplary” and said she would oppose any motion to force him out.
Rainey questioned the timing of any bid to oust Bland.
“To even present any hint of volatility within the agency to Harrisburg is a bad move,” she said, noting the agency is relying on a state bailout to get through the rest of the fiscal year and hopes to secure increased state funding in years to come in Gov. Tom Corbett's transportation funding package, to be announced Feb. 5.
Corbett's office would not comment.
Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Upper St. Clair woman’s death at Drexel probed as possible meningitis
- Redistricting spurs faceoff for Democratic state Reps. Molchany, Readshaw
- Job cuts at AGH part of ‘strategic’ process
- Assessment appeals draw Mt. Lebanon residents’ ire
- State Superior Court denies ex-Sen. Jane Orie’s corruption appeal
- PUC head says new Pittsburgh car services must follow rules
- Fox Chapel Area superintendent seeks rapport with students