Back in 2009, we were told that Steve Banta would replace Rick Simonetta as the CEO of Valley metro.
We are extremely pleased to move forward with Mr. Banta,” said METRO Board Chairman and Phoenix Vice Mayor Tom Simplot. “The METRO light rail organization will benefit from his years of experience managing an operation that is a model in the transit industry.
Today, the Phoenix Business Journal tells us that Steve Banta has resigned from his position at Metro. The Business Journal article mentions:
“It was a fantastic experience for me, but it’s a good time for something new,” – Steve Banta
Banta said his first plan is to visit his son in Portland for Thanksgiving. Then he plans to work with the board to find his replacement. After that, he said, “We’ll see what’s available to us.”
Apparently, some people think there is more to the story than “it is just time to move on.”
AZCentral reports that there has been an investigation due to expenses Banta has made as the big cheese. You know, CEO type stuff.
Flyin’ high in first class.
Super swanky hotels.
Booze for buddies, etc.
I’m sure Banta isn’t the first CEO to fly first class. I’m also pretty sure he isn’t the first CEO to eat and sleep well while he travels. Of course, when you travel with politicians, some of them have been known to like nice things and some often seem to have their hand out. Hey, it happens. Right?
The two-day trip with Glendale’s mayor, City Council members and staff included a nearly $4,700 dinner at El Gaucho
It sounds like maybe Phoenix city councilwoman Thelda Williams wasn’t invited to some of the dinners or transit parties / conferences that other elected officials were entertained at. The dinners for a few hundred bucks, the nice hotels, etc are obviously something that some people feel a CEO shouldn’t spend public tax dollars on. BUT, can you blame the poor guy, he makes $264,493 per year, I’m pretty sure he ain’t use to bringing a sack-lunch when he goes to work.
This will be interesting, for sure. I never hung out with Steve very much. Had I known he had such good taste, I might have seen if I could, you know, go catch a Diamondbacks game, or something. 🙂
The next guy to fill his shoes will probably watch his expense reports a little closer?
** Update:** The story continues to get more interesting. Another AZCentral article is shedding light on what could be some hot water for Banta if the allegations are true. It sounds like the Valley Metro board might ask for a police investigation of records from Steve Banta’s expense account. There is some question about costly meals that were said to have been used to wine and dine officials who never got wined or dined.
Among the discoveries by The Republic, Banta claimed in writing and was reimbursed $1,340 for four dinners over the past 12 months for entertaining transit executives in Portland, Ore., San Diego and San Francisco. However, those executives told The Republic they didn’t attend.
The board that oversees Valley transit has called an emergency meeting for December 3rd to see if Banta should be fired and investigated further.
Mayor Stanton has praised the work that Banta has done to help grow our light rail and overall transit system but when news about the possibility of someone misappropriating public funds came up, his office said this new information is troubling.
The Republic reports that Valley Metro spokeswoman Hillary Foose declined comment on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. She’s never really struck me as someone who goes out of her way to release information other than well crafted press releases.
Hillary Foose, a Valley Metro spokeswoman, declined to answer questions Wednesday regarding Banta’s expenses, other than to insist he abided by his employment agreement.
Foose also declined to discuss what due diligence was done to ensure Banta’s expense reports were accurate.
Mr. Banta was traveling on Wednesday and not available for comment. Maybe he’s heading out to see family for Thanksgiving. It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction comes from Banta, Metro and from the emergency meeting next week.
Anyone want to bet that this Thanksgiving weekend trip doesn’t get expensed?
**Another Update: Steve Banta tries to rescind his resignation**
The story keeps getting better all the time. You’ve got to love politics. If you are a transit nerd, you’ve got to love politics when they start talking about people involved with our bus and light rail system.
It sounds like Metro CEO Steve Banta may have had kind of a poorly planned secret deal to stay on as a consultant. But, maybe he really didn’t? Mayor Stanton’s office thinks Banta is a rock star one day and a fraud the next?
Here’s a fun little Stanton snippet from the AZCentral article.
“Mr. Banta’s behavior initially appeared to be exceptionally poor judgment, but as we learn new information, it appears as though he engaged in an alarming pattern of fraud and deception that continues to this day,” Stanton said Wednesday in a written statement. “Now, after bilking taxpayers through expense reports, he is attempting to again collect a windfall he doesn’t deserve. I fully support the city’s audit of Valley Metro records, and trust the boards will swiftly address the situation.”
Did Steve Banta rescind his resignation to see if he can get another $260k in salary that would be owed to him if he got fired? Today’s special meeting should be very interesting.
On reflection, I believe I was hurried into my resignation decision,” Banta’s letter says. “Moreover, I believe it was neither in either Valley Metro or my best interest to resign under such pressure. Therefore, I am withdrawing my letter of resignation
More audits have been ordered to see how Metro funds have been spent since Banta started riding the rails.
We’ve always known that there is a lot of money in transit planning, construction, maintenance and operations. We’ve also always known that when politicians, bureaucrats, the media and ceo’s start to disagree about how money is handled, sparks can start to fly.
Sparks have certainly started to fly…
**And, another update! – 12/4/15**
OMG, this is getting fun. The train wreck that has become the Steve Banta story is really interesting.
Remember when Banta resigned? Then, he wanted to rescind his resignation? Well, Metro has “accepted” his resignation. The amount of closed door meetings and the massive posturing of city officials, Metro employees and lawyers that are working double time on this story seem to be creating quite the buzz in transit circles and even with us lowly little light rail riders.
Sure, the board accepted his resignation, but they also approved a pretty sweet little golden parachute for Mr. CEO to use as he rides the train out of town. Steve was offered “at least” a $235k annuity to skeedaddle away from his high-powered job with the super-duper expense account. The offer has been made, he has until next week to accept or deny it. You see, there’s a whole bunch of goodness in these CEO contracts. Apparently, if you negotiate well on the front side of your contract, the exit strategy can be super fun. Fun, as in, you can call some pretty good shots as you skate on to your next high paying gig.
This sounds like some CEO fun. Right? I mean, it’s the holiday season, the dude deserves some pto. (paid time off )
He’s also expected to receive a buyout for unused vacation or about $18,000, according to Valley Metro records. He could also stay on the payroll until at least January.
As far as the golden chute goes, it sounds like it could be in the “best interest” of us taxpayers if they let the dude ride off on some gold plated light rail tracks instead of having everyone hire a bunch of lawyers who would eat up a few hundred grand in no time at all.. Yes, Banta has already hired “personal attorneys and a spokesman.” That spokesman is none other than talking head, David Leibowitz.
Williams said the boards have offered a separation agreement that she hopes will avoid litigation and additional cost to taxpayers. It was not disclosed if the boards would force Banta to repay Valley Metro for his questionable expenses or whether criminal charges would be pursued.
I can’t wait to see the jabs in the media between Leibowitz and people like Sal DiCicio. While Sal isn’t on the board, he has already come out and basically laughed at how the situation is being handled.
On Friday December 4th, another story ran that says the AG’s office may be looking at a criminal investigation of Steve Banta.
Seriously, this is going to get really good!