As rumors swirled around the possible departure of Port Authority of Allegheny County Chief Executive Officer Stephen Bland, the Authority’s board abruptly announced it was rescheduling its monthly meeting Friday. It has been widely speculated that County Executive Rich Fitzgerald is trying to flex his political muscle to oust Bland who has been with the Authority as CEO since 2006.
PAT board members are appointed by the County Executive and approved by the County Council. Some of the board’s nine members were originally appointed by Fitzgerald’s predecessors. As a crowd waited in the PAT boardroom downtown for today’s regularly scheduled meeting to begin, speculation was rampant as to which board members were supporting Fitzgerald’s rumored effort to oust Bland and which were supporting the embattled CEO.
Bland has been in the running for openings at larger transit systems around the country in recent months but has repeatedly asserted that he is committed to the Port Authority of Allegheny County and is not looking to leave.
Fitzgerald has been critical of Bland over budget numbers, union relations, and service cuts.
After a 20-minute delay, PAT spokesperson Jim Ritchie walked into the boardroom and announced to the crowd that the monthly meeting had been rescheduled for Friday February 1, 2013. Ritchie would give no other details.
Rich Fitzgerald is also not commenting on the rumors. The County Executive orchestrated the ouster of Allegheny County Health Department Executive Director Bruce Dixon in 2012 through a similar vote.
The Port Authority has roughly 2,400 employees and serves more than 214,000 riders on an average weekday. The Authority’s nearly $283 million operating budget comes from a mix of Federal, state, and county funds along with income from fares and advertising.