The board of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority voted Friday to fire its chief executive officer less than 11 months after he took the job.
Ben Limmer was fired - with cause - after a three-month investigation found that he violated eight agency procedures related to procurement procedures and relationships with vendors.
Board chair, Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller, called the violations a black eye for the agency.
“If a bus driver had violated any policies, I'm quite sure a bus driver would have been fired immediately,” he said. “But to come here and say that under eight - eight - findings, 'I'm sorry I made a mistake' by the CEO, is uncalled for, it just can't happen, it cannot happen."
“We’ve got to build this agency back up now, we’ve got to put this agency back on the right track – it has gone off course and we’ve got to bring it back on the right track as a board,” added Miller.
Limmer, who became leader of HART last March, had been placed on leave by the board last November after a whistleblower reported him.
The board hired a law firm, Carlton Fields, which conducted a three-month internal investigation and turned out a report that focused on 19 allegations.
The report highlighted Limmer’s relationship with a Tampa-based firm, TransPro Consulting. While the company didn’t receive a $3 million contract with HART, there were concerns that TransPro had an unfair advantage due to Limmer’s relationship with CEO Mark Aesch.
There were also issues with Limmer’s use of a company purchasing card.
Before the vote was held, he made a statement to the board.
“I wanted to stand up and personally stress to each and every one of you how deeply apologetic I am over all of these transgressions. I want to apologize to the citizens of Hillsborough County, the 35,000 daily customers that we serve, the 800-plus HART employees who remain dedicated each and every day, the board, and of course you, Chairman Miller,” said Limmer.
“I had, and continued to have, HART’s best interests at the forefront of every single choice that I make. I’m very thankful for your considering allowing me to return to serve you and the rest of the HART organization.
“I’m fully committed to working with you to cure any and all issues that were identified in this process and I thank you for your time,” he said.
Limmer, who was paid $210,000 a year, was fired by a vote of 11-1.
Interim CEO Carolyn House Stewart will continue serving in that position for the time being.