Former Turnpike chief may be new Port Authority boss
By Tom Fontaine
Published: Monday, Jan. 28, 2013, 11:48 p.m.
Former Pennsylvania Turnpike CEO Joseph Brimmeier is the top candidate to become Port Authority of Allegheny County's next transit chief, at least on an interim basis, sources said Monday.
Brimmeier, 64, of Ross is the choice of County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to replace Port Authority CEO Steve Bland, several sources said.
Reached by phone, Brimmeier, a board member, said he was “in a meeting” and hung up.
Neither Fitzgerald nor Bland responded to requests for comment.
The apparent decision to oust Bland, who has headed the transit agency for six years, triggered controversy. The authority board on Friday could decide whether to dismiss him. The divided board postponed the decision last week.
Brimmeier would have to step down from the board if nominated for CEO.
“Steve Bland came in to do an impossible job, and he did it,” said former state representative and House Transportation Chairman Rick Geist, R-Altoona.
He said Bland helped cut costs and inefficiencies at the agency.
Though Geist would not comment on Brimmeier's possible appointment, he said: “Port Authority needs an expert who has vast experience running an authority like that. That's not amateur hour.”
Fitzgerald publicly criticized the agency in the spring over driver shortages that led to widespread delays, vowing changes would be made 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.
Former County Executive Jim Roddey, a former Port Authority board chairman, described Fitzgerald's decision to ax Bland as “questionable.” He said Bland is a “respected transit professional” who streamlined service, cut overhead costs and introduced innovative technology such as an electronic fare collection system.
“Finding another transit executive of his caliber will not be easy,” said Roddey, chairman of the Allegheny County Republican Committee.
Sources said Fitzgerald, a Democrat, lined up enough votes to fire Bland if he would not resign, but the board agreed to a one-week delay to set terms of Bland's departure and choose an interim replacement.
Port Authority board members would not talk about the situation.
Brimmeier has had a lengthy career in politics.
After a falling out with the late County Commissioner Tom Foerster, Brimmeier ran unsuccessfully for prothonotary in the early 1990s before working as a deputy auditor general and Monroeville manager.
Brimmeier served as chief of staff to former U.S. Rep. Ron Klink, who lost a Senate bid in 2000. He later became involved with the campaign of former Gov. Ed Rendell, who appointed him to the turnpike's top post in 2003.
State and federal grand juries have investigated the turnpike since that time. Brimmeier's tenure ended in 2011.
Turnpike officials said they asked for the FBI's help investigating agency matters, including possible improprieties with a $181 million highway widening project between Valley Forge and Norristown.
A two-year state grand jury probe, which is ongoing, is investigating agency spending and hiring practices.
Brimmeier supported Fitzgerald's 2011 campaign for county executive, donating a combined $750 that year, including $500 on May 2 and $250 on Nov. 1, according to campaign finance reports.
Staff writer Mike Wereschagin contributed to this report. 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.
- Job cuts at AGH part of ‘strategic’ process
- Redistricting provides faceoff for Democratic state Reps. Molchany, Readshaw
- Fox Chapel Area superintendent seeks rapport with students
- Ex-Sandusky lawyer investigated in divorce case
- Newsmaker: Dr. Kyle Soltys
- Assessment appeals draw Mt. Lebanon residents’ ire
- Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh to hold annual public meeting March 26
- Allegheny County Democrats endorse several incumbents in primary
- Western Pennsylvania organizations team to find housing for vets
- Parking tickets in Downtown Pittsburgh spark outrage
- Donor name to be stripped from Penn Hills library