HART fires CEO David Armijo after whistleblower accusations surface

A concern for many of the commissioners was the fact that there was little or no documentation supporting the claims that Armijo treated employees badly or that he unfairly manipulated the pay structure.

There were also accusations that Armijo abused the budget by adding extra days into his travels; however, the argument barely supported one day and a total of only about $200 was in question.

Attorney Dawn Siler-Nixon is overseeing the investigation on behalf of the Ford-Harrison law firm. According to Nixon, between seven and 10 people have had their positions changed and at least two have had their salaries changed without the approval of HR. She has been looking into employee complaints and collecting documentation, but at the meeting she said that under the whistleblower act, the information collected is confidential.

Prior to the start of the meeting, Commissioner Mark Sharpe told CL the issue was very challenging. “It’s difficult to know what the whole board is going to do, but I’m not going to let go until all concerns are addressed,” Sharpe said. “I like strong leadership and you need people to come in and steer the ship in the right direction. With that said, there are processes, procedures and a level of respect that has to exist. Strong leaders don’t have to be arrogant."

After hearing the allegations, Sharpe seemed reluctant to admit there was a level of distrust with Armijo. "Is he the right person to be the CEO at this time with our employees? Who is the right person?" Sharpe asked.

According to the commissioners, HART needed some serious reorganizing in policy. Commissioner Sandra Murman stated that there seemed to be "a culture of dissatisfaction at HART." The board members came back after a short recess with a 7-4 vote to terminate Armijo and give him 180 days with pay and benefits as his severance.

The motion to fire Armijo was supported by David Mechanik, Michael York, Sandra Murman, Mark Sharpe, Kevin Beckner, Wallace Bowers and Alison Hewitt.

Opposing the motion and voting to keep Armijo as the CEO were board members Fran Davin, Steven Polzin, Ron Govin and John Byczek.

Armijo plans on meeting with his attorney this morning to plan his next move. Earlier in the meeting, the board stated that a lawsuit by Armijo is likely.

Armijo's main argument was the lack of evidence presented at the meeting. He felt the board made its decision in the absence of facts.

After weeks of investigations and more than four hours of deliberation, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board made a majority decision to terminate HART’s CEO David Armijo after allegations of internal conflicts regarding employees. Current interim Philip Hale will take over operations until a new CEO is appointed.

During the meeting, Armijo was questioned about employee hiring and pay structure. According to Armijo, the human resource department reviewed all hiring and salary structures. But Michael Stevens, HART's human resource director, stood up to defend his department by stating Armijo didn't follow procedure when hiring and that the HR department did not make recommendations. Stevens also stated that when HR suggested that the organization do a compensation analyisis, Armijo did not want to pursue it. "The last time the human resource department was involved in any reorganizations was December of 2009."

Scroll to read more News Feature articles


Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.