Frank Wilson Survival Watch: Down Goes Wilson!!! Down Goes Wilson!!
Today's installment of the Frank Wilson Survival Watch is our last -- the Metro president announced his resignation at a meeting this afternoon -- but that doesn't mean Wilson is completely dead to Metro.
He's still got quite a bit of cash coming to him, thanks to generous contract stipulations that the Metro board was unable to shake while negotiating the terms of the resignation. In fact, it doesn't really sound like it tried.
According to Gilbert Garcia, Metro's board chairman, Wilson will get about $450,000 in various benefits, along with 17 years worth of pension payouts. Wilson worked for Metro for six years.
Garcia, who called the resignation a "mutual agreement," said the payout would equal about half of what was in Wilson's contract. If the board determined there had been cause to fire Wilson, it wouldn't have owed him a dime.
"I have not seen any cause [for firing Wilson]. I think the agreement speaks for itself," Garcia said after the meeting. "He worked very hard and he got us to this place."
Along with not finding any cause for firing Wilson, the board voted today to pay for Wilson's attorneys and any legal fees he incurs while defending himself in two pending lawsuits.
The suits -- one from attorney Lloyd Kelley, the other from fired Metro counsel Pauline Higgins -- concern allegations of illegal document shredding, among other things.
Wilson was present at today's meeting (he hasn't been at other recent board meetings), and spoke for a few minutes after the board announce he was leaving.
"I guess it was two days ago, someone asked me about legacy. They said, 'What do you think your legacy is?'" Wilson said. "It's not the projects...as much hope and promise there is in the future for Metro Solutions and 30 miles of new rail, it's really not that. A legacy here is 3,000 employees we call Metro employees."
Maybe Wilson wants his legacy to be Metro employees and not those projects, because there's questions about whether Metro can afford to pay for any of them. Like 30 miles of new rail.
The mayor reportedly said this week that funding, about $900 million, from the Federal Transit Administration is now in jeopardy because of poor management by Wilson and former board chairman David Wolff.
Garcia said there was no pressure from the FTA for Wilson to resign, that it wasn't talked about during last week's meetings in Washington, D.C., so the change in leadership shouldn't help with any of the FTA's hesitation.
But Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who spoke at today's meeting, said Metro will receive the federal funding. Lee spoke with Ray LaHood, the federal transportation secretary, this morning, and, according to Lee, LaHood told her that the administration is committed to paying for Houston's new light rail.
Still, Metro has been saying it was set to get its full funding agreement from the feds for more than a year, so we wouldn't trust anything until that agreement is finalized.
The board is hiring an executive search firm to find a new leader for Metro, but in the meantime, George Greanias will serve as president for the agency. Greanias, who said he'd like to be considered for the permanent position, also chaired the Metro transition team after Mayor Annise Parker was elected.
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