Also addressed at the OCTA meeting was the national search for a new CEO for OCTA . . . or lack
thereof. I describe the process as an awkward cram down. The OCTA Board did not even interview the winning candidate, or any other potential candidates for the position. The OCTA Board also approved a contract with a six-month severance package – a strategy that I now abhor – based on my recent experience with the previous County CEO . If Darrell Johnson is a dud, and the Board wishes to remove him, it will cost $128,000 to do so. Also quite awkward. It was an unfortunate start for Mr. Johnson and it could have been easily avoided by continuing the item, enjoying a public or private interview with the full board, and modifying the contract. Mr. Johnson now has a split board, when he could likely have had a unanimous one in a matter of days and long before he would assume the position. Let’s hope he can dispel the empty bus concerns that many of my constituents bring to my attention and that there is never a need to exercise the severance clause. The OC Register covers it in the second piece below.
OC Register story referenced: OCTA names new chief, despite questions
Update from Supervisor Pat Bates “Fifth District Report” late this afternoon:
I did not support the motion because it was lacking in openness and not inclusive of the ten new Board members who will be seated in the coming weeks. With ten new members on the OCTA Board (out of a total of 17), I believe the new Board should have been involved in both the appointment and contract negotiations, since they are the ones who’ll work with the new CEO in implement transportation projects approved by the voters.
Per the Register story, both Bates and Supervisor Janet Nguyen abstained from voting for Johnson. Moorlach, Board Member Peter Herzog and Supervisor Shawn Nelson voted against Johnson’s appointment. Both Nelson and Herzog must have been especially agitated with the vote. Nelson called it a “travesty”; Herzog, a Lake Forest Councilman, said it was “the worst thing” he’d seen seen in 18 years of public service.
If the underlying concerns of four of FIVE County Supervisors are that the appointment should have waited for the ten new Board members (who need to be elected like school and community college boards, not appointed) to be seated, it’s reasonable for the reconstituted Board to own this appointment and for all to have the opportunity to interview Johnson for his suitability. The retiring CEO that Johnson is replacing won’t be gone until February, so there appears no special reason for the appointment to have been rushed through this month, and particularly ahead of the holidays. If there’s a hidden agenda, that’s another story.