HART's investigation into its CEO will be made public, despite a recent settlement proposal
An investigation into whether Le Grand fostered a hostile work environment is expected to be completed in two weeks.
Attorneys for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority are finalizing their investigation into CEO Adelee Le Grand that began late last year.
The report comes as Le Grand's attorney proposed a settlement to have her leave the organization without the findings becoming public, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The investigation was launched late last year after employees complained of a hostile work environment, and a discovery that one of HART’s employees working directly under Le Grand was working for another transit agency at the same time, which is against board policy.
During a Monday morning meeting, several HART Board members said they’re against the report remaining hidden, as it would not be the transparent to community members.
But HART General Counsel David Smith said that will not be the case.
"This information will be a public record,” Smith said. “It will be provided to the board, it will be available to the public. We would not make a recommendation, as you read, that somehow this whole thing be retained in secrecy. That is not appropriate in our view. [It’s] not legally correct, nor is it policy-wise correct."
According to Smith, the investigation is less than two weeks from being complete. He also said, according to conversations he’s had with the investigators, he doesn’t believe that the findings will be enough to fire Le Grand with cause.
“For example, if you look at the issue that's most glaring - the fact that the person worked two different jobs- that was not Ms. Le Grand who worked two different jobs. Working two different jobs is a violation of HART policy, by the person who's working two different jobs. As I understand it, when Ms. Le Grand was apprised of the fact that this person was working two different jobs, they were terminated, or asked to leave. That's not a violation your policies.”
And Smith said the allegations of a hostile work environment takes more evidence than what they’ve gathered so far.
“You hired her to clean up the program,” Smith said. “She's done that. Sometimes that can be perceived incorrectly, sometimes it can be pursued to zealously...the thing is that as a matter of law, a hostile work environment requires something more than just aggressive oversight and aggressive management.”
Le Grand says she's been supportive of a full report, but the lack of communication with her and the investigation's 60-day deadline being surpassed by more than a month made her seek a settlement instead.
"Day 100 is where we are today,” Le Grand said. “If we're going to continue on for another 100 days, another 200 days, another 300 days, it is too much for the organization."
Le Grand said as the organization enters its next budget process, she wants to make sure it has stable leadership as it faces financial challenges.
“For the last 100 days, I've seen men and women working really hard keeping their heads up, and having a lot to deal with,” Le Grand said. “We have a very significant financial situation that we've been very transparent about. People are concerned about their jobs. They recognize that next year, we're going to be short, [and] the year after that we're going to be short, exponentially. We're going under. We have all of this going on.”
One of the final steps in the investigation, according to Smith, is an interview with Le Grand and her legal representation, which she said has not been discussed with her yet.
Board members said they'd like to see the findings before making any decisions.
“I think that if we were to decide on it today, we'd essentially be trying to fit in a size 40 waist and a size 36 pants, and it's just not going to fit,” board chair Luis Viera said.
Board member Michael Owen said it’s "mind-boggling" that the organization doesn’t have a clear replacement if Le Grand were terminated.
The proposed settlement from Le Grand’s legal team said she could stay in the role until the end of May, or longer if necessary.
“When you're cutting ties and you settle with a party, that's it, you move on immediately. You do not keep the people around,” Owen said.
The board voted to discuss the investigation's conclusion, and next steps, at a meeting later this month.