Home / World News / New RTD operating chief faced questions about bills, early termination in Michigan job – The Denver Post

New RTD operating chief faced questions about bills, early termination in Michigan job – The Denver Post

Michael Ford, the chief operating officer of metro Denver's Regional Transportation District.

Provided by RTD

Michael Ford, the chief operating officer of metro Denver’s Regional Transportation District.

The new chief operating officer for the Regional Transportation District was terminated early from his previous job at a transit agency in the Detroit area and faced questions about excessive expense reimbursements.

But an RTD spokesman said Monday that officials carefully vetted Michael Ford’s background before hiring him for the newly created $230,000-a-year position and attributed the circumstances behind Ford’s departure to politics, not wrongdoing.

Michael Ford served for more than two years as CEO of the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan, a coordinating organization for four transportation agencies. Metro Detroit voters in November 2016 narrowly rejected — by a 1 percentage point margin — a $4.7 billion transit expansion plan that Ford had championed.

In March 2017, the RTA’s board decided to terminate Ford’s contract “without cause,” seven months before its expiration. The decision came after the board had reviewed $37,000 in travel, cell phone, mileage and other expense reimbursements charged by Ford during his tenure.

Ford repaid nearly $19,000 for expenses that were considered overpayments, according to the Detroit Free Press.

“We were well aware of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Ford’s departure from the RTA in the Detroit area, and he was very forthcoming in discussing exactly what led to him leaving,” RTD spokesman Scott Reed said. “We did carefully vet the situation and received very detailed information, especially from the RTA’s board of directors.”

In one letter of reference provided by RTD, vice chair Elisabeth R. Gerber called Ford “nothing short of a visionary leader” who was made “an unfortunate scapegoat” for the election loss. It was the latest of several failed efforts to expand transit in the Detroit area.

After the board’s early termination of Ford’s contract, chairman Paul Hillegonds said in a news release that the ballot loss meant that Ford wouldn’t be needed to implement the rejected transit plan.

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