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Metro, Investigate Thyself

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The Metro board called a special meeting yesterday afternoon to hold a private executive session to discuss attorney Lloyd Kelley's lawsuit against Metro, which deals with all that alleged document shredding.

But the board also used the opportunity to release the findings from UHY Advisors, a firm Metro hired to investigate allegations that Frank Wilson, Metro's president, illegally spent funds, like the time he went to Spain with his Joanne Wright, Wilson's chief of staff and alleged girlfriend. 

The UHY report, which is based on reviewed expense reports and other documents, says that Wilson and Wright did nothing wrong. We'll give Metro the benefit of the doubt and assume that a firm hired by Metro to investigate Metro was objective. But there is an interesting footnote in the report:

"However, we offer no opinions as to the business necessity of the expenditures related to the business trips, meals or hotels by Mr. Wilson or Ms. Wright," the report says.

The "business necessity" of taxpayer money spent by Wilson would seem to be the whole point of an investigation, but like we said, benefit of the doubt.

Of course, Gilbert Garcia, the new chairman of the Metro board, said after the meeting, "Right now this board is still evaluating all the facts. I can't really talk about everything we're doing in executive session, but we're going to be rolling out some additional items very soon."

From a new board that was nominated by Mayor Annise Parker, who made it clear before and after her election that Metro needed to change for the better, it sounds like more of the same.

For example, Parker has said she thought the board would replace Wilson. After yesterday's meeting, Garcia said, "Frank Wilson is still the CEO because he's doing a good job."

Parker has also expressed concern that Metro could have problems paying for construction of five new light rail lines. Garcia disagreed.

"All the information I have seen said we can do it, build all five lines," Garcia said.

That statement even comes after recent comments from the Federal Transit Administration. KHOU reported that the FTA said it wouldn't approve "federal funding right now for two light rail extensions proposed by Metro until it can become confident the transit authority can afford to finish the jobs while still maintaining current service."

Garcia, along with other board members, are scheduled to travel to Washington, D.C., next week to discuss the status of getting that money.

Wilson's long-term status could still be questionable. There is still an ongoing investigation into Metro by the District Attorney's Office. But Wilson should be at Metro for at least another week, because Garcia sent a letter to the Metro president asking him to present a new records retention policy at the next board meeting.

Gene Locke, Metro's special counsel, said that despite needing this new document retention policy, "No documents that were required to be protected under the law were destroyed."

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