Share This Page

Port Authority CEO search takes shape

| Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013, 12:48 a.m.

Port Authority of Allegheny County officials will move “aggressively” to replace fired CEO Steve Bland and pursue County Executive Rich Fitzgerald's plan to strengthen the transit agency.

“I've already gotten several calls” from local people interested in the Port Authority's top post, Fitzgerald said, declining to identify them.

Port Authority's board of directors fired Bland on Friday, culminating almost a year of friction between him and Fitzgerald, who said the transit chief “resisted” his proposals to improve the system. Bland could not be reached Monday.

Port Authority Chairman Jeff Letwin said the board will finalize a search committee this week and all members can be on it.

The agency used executive search firms to identify candidates in a national effort the last time it hired a CEO. The search committee interviewed top candidates and hired Bland in 2006. That search took about three months, Letwin said.

Letwin described the timetable as “aggressive,” but Fitzgerald — who appoints authority board members and signs off on about $30 million in county funding to the agency — says he wants “major changes” soon at the agency.

Fitzgerald's ideas include boosting revenue through sponsorships and naming-rights deals; equipping buses with GPS technology so riders can track buses' whereabouts; removing buses from inner streets Downtown; increasing economic development along the T light-rail line and improving signs; and converting buses to run on natural gas.

But Fitzgerald said of the CEO search, “We'd rather do it right than just quickly.”

Fitzgerald wanted former Turnpike CEO Joseph G. Brimmeier, a Port Authority board member, to replace Bland on an interim basis, but the board chose Chief Financial Officer Ellen McLean. Fitzgerald said he doesn't know McLean well.

“Ellen really led us through some difficult financial times. More importantly, I think she's a woman of unquestionable integrity,” said former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, for whom McLean worked as city CFO from 1999 to 2005, overseeing a $450 million annual budget.

Murphy said McLean, 59, played a key role in shaping the city's tax structure when it entered the state's Act 47 program for financially distressed municipalities.

McLean did not respond to requests for comment. She will continue earning $138,000 a year in her new role; Bland made $185,000 a year and will receive half that amount as a severance for being fired without cause.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

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.