TriMet postpones new general manager decision
TriMet delayed the decision to pick a new general manager the day after its preferred candidate, Chief Operating Office Doug Kelsey, answered questions from the public and labor representatives during an ocassionally contentious Board of Directors meeting.
The board had been scheduled to meet on Jan. 31 and decide whether to open contract negotiations with Kelsey or resume the recruitment process. But on Wednesday afternoon, TriMet announced it was extending the public comment period and postponing the meeting. A new date will be set later.
"While the Board has heard a tremendous amount of support for our GM finalist, Mr. Doug Kelsey, we also have heard from the community that they want more time to review our choice and make comments," TriMet Board of Directors Chair Bruce Warner said in the announcement.
The selection process had previously been criticized as too secret in an online posting by the OPAL Environmental Justice advocacy group.
"As stakeholders of this transit agency we need a more inclusive and transparent hiring process that engages directly impacted communities. Such a process needs to be grounded in equity and be representative of the communities TriMet serves. We challenge TriMet to show this region a better process moving forward," said the Jan. 19 posting, which was signed by a number of local elected officials, including Metro Council Kathryn Harrington and Portland Commissioner Chloe Eudaly, and leaders of numerous community organizations.
Warner defended the recruitment process during Tuesday's meeting, saying the agency had retained an executive search firm specializing in public transportation agencies that presented the board with a diverse selection of candidates to interview. In the end, Warner said, Kelsey was the most qualified.
The harshest questioning during the Tuesday board meeting came from representatives of Amalgamated Transit Union 757. Among other things, they said the recruitment process was too secretive and that Kelsey would perpetuate the history of whate males leading the agency.
They also accused Kelsey of being part of an administration that had created a "climate of fear" among the transit agency's employees. Kelsey replied that TriMet was enforcing its own rules and federal transit safety laws, and said he was willing to meet with them to discuss the issue.
According to the announcement, the public can continue to submit their comments on the general manager search by:
• Submitting a comment online at trimet.org/contact
• Calling 503-238-RIDE (7433)
You can view the OPAL posting at www.opalpdx.org/2018/01/we-demand-a-halt-to-trimet-gm-hiring-process.
You can read a previous Portland Tribune story about the meeting at portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/384890-273991-trimet-gm-candidate-answers-questions-from-public-union.
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