Valley Metro Facing Audits, Investigations And Other Changes

By Alexandra Olgin
Published: Friday, December 4, 2015 - 5:00pm
Updated: Monday, December 7, 2015 - 4:49pm

The outgoing CEO of Valley Metro has reportedly agreed to a separation agreement with the agency. He submitted a letter of resignation Nov. 24 after the release of public records about questionable business expenses. The Valley Metro two Boards of Directors accepted his resignation Thursday.

The separation agreement hasn’t yet been formalized — that’s scheduled to happen Monday. If CEO Stephen Banta and the board sign the current deal, he would be compensated through the rest of December. Records show Banta used public funds for expensive dinners, first-class flights and alcohol.

Banta said he will cooperate with both audits because he has nothing to hide. Valley Metro is scheduled to have at least two audits, and on Friday, Phoenix City Council members called for an Attorney General investigation.

Phoenix City Council member Michael Nowakowski is one of those calling for the state’s top legal office to look into the matter.

“I’m not against the trips. But it’s the expenses on the trips,” he said. “If you are going out there to do some research, if there is a community purpose for it, I think you should. If you’re spending hundreds of dollars on a dinner and drinking there is something wrong with that.”

Nowakowski said he has traveled to research public transit but has no concerns about his expenses. The Attorney General’s office will look into the complaint to decide whether to launch an investigation.

In addition to the reviews, Gilbert Council member Jenn Daniels is looking to change the agency’s reporting structure. She sits on the Board of Directors of the Valley Metro Regional Public Transit Authority.

 “We will no longer just have one individual reporting to us,” she said. “I’m glad to hear that the rest of board is now examining and looking at that as part of a critical piece of our oversight as a board.”

Daniels said currently the CEO is the only person who reports to both Valley Metro Boards of Directors. She wants to have at least two individuals reporting directly to the boards. That structure more closely mirrors other city governments.

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