HART CEO narrowly avoids suspension after Tampa Mayor Jane Castor defends her

The board held a tied vote, which means that Le Grand will stay.

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click to enlarge HART CEO Adelee Le Grand addresses the transit agency's board as it discusses an independent investigation into the organization. - HART
HART
HART CEO Adelee Le Grand addresses the transit agency's board as it discusses an independent investigation into the organization.
In a tie vote, Hillsborough's public transit board narrowly decided against suspending the CEO who's under investigation over allegations of a toxic workplace and misconduct of a top executive.

Today's motion to suspend Adelee Le Grand was made by Hillsborough Area Regional Transit (HART) Board Chair Pat Kemp after months of turmoil that saw over 57 administrative level employees leave or be fired from the agency. Former high ranking officials have alleged a toxic workplace and unethical behavior by Le Grand.

At the meeting, Kemp argued that for the investigation to be uncompromised by Le Grand still running the organization, she must be suspended during the proposed 60-day investigation.

"We have this incredible repeated turnover of key administration and management staff, we also have repeated allegations of a toxic workplace," Kemp said. "To conduct an independent investigation of this kind, suspension is the best practice. I don't see a reason to make an exception here."
Kemp continued by saying that she wasn't making assumptions or determinations about what the outcome of the investigation will be, but still believed suspension was best.

Six board members voted yes for the suspension, while six voted no. A tied vote meant the motion to suspend Le Grand failed. Just before the vote, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor argued against Le Grand's suspension.

"I disagree, Chair Kemp," Castor said. "We brought Miss Le Grand in to right this organization, to provide leadership for it. And she has done a great job for the past two, almost two years, that she has been here."

Castor said she hadn't heard evidence of a hostile work environment, despite former employees saying it on the record, and a leaked resignation letter from Le Grand's fourth communications director that called Le Grand a "dictator and a tyrant."
Castor also said that she hasn't seen evidence of double-dipping by a top executive at HART, despite the Tampa Bay Times reporting on it last month.

What Castor said at today's meeting echoes what she said at a meeting last week, where she advised the board to not suspend or remove Le Grand. Castor used herself as an example, saying, "I've been involved in a lot of investigations in my lifetime."

Castor's defense of Le Grand happened on the same day that she accepted Police Chief Mary O'Connor's resignation. Castor requested the resignation after Creative Loafing Tampa Bay unearthed body camera video of O'Connor using her status to get out of a traffic stop. Earlier this year, Castor pushed for O'Connor to be police chief, despite a chorus of concern over O'Connor punching a cop during a 1995 DUI stop.

Currently, Tampa Police Department is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for its racially-biased crime free multi-housing program, which both Castor and O'Connor oversaw.
During the meeting, Tampa City Councilman Luis Viera voted the opposite of Castor and supported suspension, but with caution. He said that without passing judgement on Le Grand, it would be best for her to be suspended because the work environment was "acute" no matter who was at fault.

"With hesitation I go for suspension," Viera said.

County Commissioner Gwen Myers also voted for the suspension.

"We know that Miss Le Grand has come in and has met the requirements that this board have asked her to do," Myers said. "And at the same time, there have been some concerns from the employees who worked there."
Myers said that the concerns about a toxic workplace go back to earlier this year, when the board started receiving emails from anonymous employees and noticing that there was a high turnover at HART.

"And now we as a board have let it get out of control somewhere," Myers said. "We didn't do anything when it was first brought to our attention, and now we're at a place today whether she she'll be suspended or remain in her job."

HART board directors who voted against suspending Le Grand include Mayor Castor, Gil Schisler, Rena Upshaw-Frazier, Melanie Williams and Tyler Hudson.

HART board directors who voted for Le Grand's suspension include Kemp, Myers, Viera, Marvin Ray Knight, Michael Owen, Joshua Wostal.

About The Author

Justin Garcia

Justin Garcia has written for The Nation, Investigative Reporters & Editors Journal, the USA Today Network and various other news outlets. When he's not writing, Justin likes to make music, read, play basketball and spend time with loved ones. 


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