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HART CEO Le Grand is officially ousted as the transportation authority's leader

Steve Wenzel speaking at a podium in front of a crowd
HART
Le Grand's attorney, Steven Wenzel, defended his client during the Tuesday meeting, pushing back on some of the investigative findings that an outside attorney for HART brought up.

The board voted Tuesday to pay Le Grand roughly $90,000 along with two months of health benefits, with her resigning the position immediately.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority — or HART — has officially ousted CEO Adelee Le Grand.

After back-and-forth negotiations between the HART board and Le Grand’s legal team, a settlement was reached before a potential legal battle could take place.

The board voted Tuesday to pay Le Grand roughly $90,000 along with two months of health benefits, with her resigning the position immediately.

Initially, some board members expressed that they would rather take their chances in court while terminating Le Grand’s employment for cause, meaning she wouldn’t get any type of compensation package.

But after some negotiation, the board decided to complete the deal.

“Our obligation is to HART as an organization,” said board member Rena Upshaw-Frazier. “So there's a cost-benefit analysis as to whether we want to terminate for cause for whatever reason, whether that's on principle, whether that's to punish somebody, for whatever reason that is, versus figuring out what is the best situation.”

What the investigation found

In a briefing, outside attorney David Adams, who conducted the investigation into Le Grand, outlined five of the findings from the investigation:

  • CEO Le Grand created an environment of fear and intimidation
  • The CEO’s behavior caused abnormal administrative turnover
  • Agency communication is terrible because people are afraid to speak up
  • Last minute layoffs, quits and severance packages violated HART policy and state law
  • CEO Le Grand knew or should have known about Teri Wright’s dual employment as early as May 3, 2022

The last finding is in reference to a HART employee who worked closely with Le Grand, and was employed by another transit agency at the same time, against board policy.

adelee le grand sitting at the HART board of directors round table, speaking into a mic with outside attorney Steven Wenzel seated behind her
HART
Le Grand served as CEO of HART starting in January 2021, holding the position until she was suspended in March 2023.

Adams also pushed back on a letter sent to HART outside attorney Cindy Townsend from Le Grand’s attorney Steven Wenzel, which called the investigation “sloppy, inaccurate and factually incorrect.”

Before settling, Wenzel defended his client during the Tuesday meeting, inferring that some of the allegations should fall on other HART employees.

"You can't run an 800-employee organization where every decision comes to the top,” Wenzel said. “CEOs set a direction, and other people are assigned the task of implementing that direction."

What the board had to say

But HART board members pushed back on Wenzel’s argument.

“It's even harder for me to wrap my mind around that there is some type of rogue employee pushing buttons, throwing severance packages around outside of the CEO’s knowledge,” said board member Michael Owen.

Wenzel also argued that CEOs like Le Grand need to make change in their workplaces in order to improve it, and that the widespread layoffs would save the authority millions over multiple years.

He also said that Le Grand sent an email asking that Wright be put on part-time on Oct. 16, two days after he said Le Grand learned of her dual employment.

"All CEOs can do is try to have the right people in the right places doing the right things,” Wenzel said. “You can't police every transaction. She doesn't get to sign every check. She doesn't have a button to push for every payroll check that needs to go out."

Records pulled from the investigation show that Wright continued to receive full-time pay from HART for weeks, and earned part-time pay when policy directs that she should’ve been terminated.

Scott Drainville will continue serving as interim CEO for HART until a decision is made on next steps for a new leader for the transit agency.

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