The nine-member board of the Port Authority of Allegheny County closed a special meeting Friday without choosing a new CEO, meaning the task will be left to a new board that will feature nearly all-new faces.
Currently the board is fully appointed by the County Executive, but a bill passed in the state legislature this spring changes the make up of the board to include 11 members appointed, in part, by the state.
Under the new plan the County Executive retains four selections, but two of them must be recommended by the Allegheny Conference, the Allegheny Council of Governments, the Committee for Accessible Transportation and the Southwest Planning Commission. The bill also gives two picks to the minority party on County Council and one appointment each to the Democratic and Republican leaders of the State House, the State Senate, and the governor.
It is expected that nearly every board member will be new when it next meets in September.
Nine-year board member Jeffery Letwin said he would like to continue to serve, but he understands the need for change. He said he was disappointed to be leaving without naming a new CEO.
“We thought we could have completed that process but once the state decided to take a new direction with the make up of the board it just would not have been appropriate,” Letwin said.
The board had reportedly interviewed about a half dozen candidates before putting a freeze on the process that Letwin thinks the new board will have to start from scratch.
Former CEO Steve Bland was ousted from the post when County Executive Rich Fitzgerald began to appoint new members to the board. The move ruffled enough feathers to prompt the Pennsylvania Legislature to action.
The new board will have to work with that Legislature to deal with what Letwin calls the biggest challenge it will face.
“Try to get the state to finally give the commitment to funding and then try to balance whatever funding levels we get with an appropriate amount of service for the region to make sure people still can get to be where they need to be,” Letwin said.
Seventeen-year board member John Brooks said being on the board is a hard job, and Harrisburg makes it even harder.
“They play the political game, but in the end we all get hurt,” said Brooks.” Hopefully somebody makes a move in our direction.”
Interim CEO Ellen McLean will continue to serve while the search for a CEO resumes. She said she has already begun to put together information and outline board training that will be needed to get the new members up to speed quickly.