Armijo fired by HART board

By TED JACKOVICS | The Tampa Tribune

Published: April 19, 2011

TAMPA – The region’s bus authority has a temporary new
leader after the HART board voted late Monday to fire Chief Executive David
Armijo without cause.

Armijo said he would meet this morning with his attorney to
decide what to do next. He left little doubt he planned to sue the Hillsborough
Area Regional Transit Authority.

“The board made its decision in an absence of facts and
evidence,” Armijo said.

HART Chief Operating Officer Philip Hale will take over the
750-employee county bus system that Armijo led to record ridership.

The 7-4 vote came in a stunningly swift motion at the end of
a 41/2-hour meeting. A previous motion to keep him aboard on 90 days probation
died on a 5-6 vote.

Board members  David Mechanik, Michael York, Sandra
Murman, Mark Sharpe, Kevin Beckner, Wallace Bowers and Alison Hewitt voted to
fire Armijo.

Board members Fran Davin, Steven Polzin, Ron Govin and John
Byczek opposed the motion.

Details of the allegations and identities of the
complainants who filed challenges under HART’s whistleblower act remained
undisclosed, despite efforts of several of the HART board members to get them

The board had hired a law firm to explore allegations that
Armijo retaliated against a handful of high-ranking employees who disagreed
with him and claims that Armijo improperly used travel funding that amounted to
less than $200.

Board members said there was no reason to terminate Armijo for
cause and there was no evidence he had violated the law.

“The process was manipulated by a number of people who
provided no evidence,” Armijo said.

Armijo was employed under a contract that expires Sept.. 30,
2012, and paid $185,338 in salary, along with opportunities for merit increases
and performance bonuses.

According to the terms of his contract, Armijo will receive
180 days of severance pay plus payment for medical and life insurance premiums.

HART under Armijo has reported record ridership in recent
months, with March being the 13th consecutive month of 1 million-plus

However, HART faces immediate challenges, with possible
operational budget shortfalls of $3.2 million in fiscal 2012 and $5.9 million
for fiscal 2013 under current plans that are under staff review to find ways to
balance the budgets.

Expenses are expected to rise from a current $2.30 a gallon
for diesel fuel that HART arranged for its fiscal 2011 budget to facing diesel
fuel prices the federal government predicts could reach $3.37 a gallon in the
next two years.