Armijo hints at litigation in the wake of his firing as HART CEO

Armijo claims that story and others were part of "the campaign to discourage my reputation and to influence the final decision of the board," adding that none of the issues raised rose to the level of being unethical or illegal.

However, he does believe those that have speculated in statements or in the press that there was a racial component at work, claiming that some of his critics (from the Amalgamated Transit Union) expressly stated that was an issue at a workshop on light rail held at the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority in early February.

In this morning's Tampa Tribune, reporter Ted Jackovics writes that during the process that led to Armijo's firing, issues with how the board conducts its business has risen to the forefront.

Those include revenue declines and higher expenses.  Armijo said on Tuesday that the agency is now enduring its fifth year of ad valorem reduction of property taxes, meaning that it's going to need to increase those revenues somehow, as HART "cannot go on indefinitely with a deficit," though he adds that transit agencies in nearby Pinellas and Polk are enduring the same challenges. He says he's discouraged that the state Legislature is not "moving in the direction" of allowing agencies like HART that take in ad valorem taxes to hold a public vote in the future to even maintain those taxes - not to increase them.  And in perhaps a self-serving note, he says he thinks it will be difficult "when you have internal problems with your union and you have the situation when employees go to the board if they're unhappy with the administration."

Throughout the interview, Armijo also mentioned that his reputation has obviously been seriously impaired on a national level because of the investigation and now termination.

Although he had been put on the equivalent of a month's paid suspension for accusations by employees of conflicts of interest, favoritism of hiring and taking improper vacation time, the St. Pete Times reports this morning that a huge factor in the HART board of directors voting 7-4 Monday night to terminate CEO David Armijo was unauthorized contract changes he requested that made it more difficult to fire him.

Without addressing that issue, Armijo maintained Tuesday speaking with CL that the investigation against him had been unfair from the start, perhaps laying a predicate if he decides to pursue litigation in the wake of his ouster.  He says that the transit agency's policy on whistle-blowers is "inconsistent" with state statute, an issue that was brought up amongst board members during their April 4 meeting.

"It raises serious concerns as to how you can go about a process where you can remove an individual without cause,  do an investigation, not provide any facts, not to let anybody to be able to confront the people making allegations, no information has been provided to substantiate the allegations, and based on what I could find out about the allegations, from either board members or from some of the questions asked of me about the investigation, I was able to essentially prove that all those allegations made by Ford-Harrison were in fact false, and yet they still took action."

(Update: Armijo does respond to the Times story on his Facebook page on Wednesday, writing,"For the record, I did not make the language changes. That work was done by the Board's General Counsel. He was solely responsible for the content and distribution of the information to the Board.  He reports to the Board, not the CEO." But that General Counsel, Clark Jordan-Homes, tells the St. Pete Times that the changes were made at Armijo's request.)

Armijo says he believes that Ford-Harrison, the labor law-firm that investigated the employee complaints against him, took their investigation astray from the actual allegations made against him. As he said to reporters following the April 4 HART Board meeting, Armijo said that Florida law says that the whistle-blower must make their claim in writing and under oath, and has to do so 60 days after the alleged transaction occurred.  But he says that with the exception of the issues with his travel, "none of the allegations were timely."He added that this fact was "really critical" because if he opts to sue, this will be an issue he will bring up.  "In the end, the board made decisions on rumors and innuendo," he maintained.

One of the more devastating stories to surface in the media about Armijo was reported in Saturday's Times, where David Persaud, who was HART's CFO when Armijo was hired in 2007, said that once he questioned Armijo about some of his decisions, he saw his pay cut by $24,000, and was then offered a settlement by Armijo to keep quiet when he left to work for the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Agency.  In that same story, former executive Steven Roberts also blasted Armijo.

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