By Matt Murphy State House News Service
All six members of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation board whose resignations were sought by Gov. Charlie Baker have agreed to step down, paving the way for Baker to remake the leadership team in charge of the embattled MBTA.
Almost a week after Baker and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack requested the resignations of the board members, all of whom were appointed by the governor's predecessor Deval Patrick, the officials on Tuesday complied either verbally or in writing. Pollack is the only person who will remain on the board.
"The Governor is grateful for all of the members' service to the Commonwealth, is thankful for their recommendations and looks forward to assembling a new team of transportation experts to assist MassDOT," Baker spokesman Tim Buckley said.
MassDOT board chairman John Jenkins and board members Andrew Whittle, Robin Chase, Joseph C. Bonfiglio and Dominic Blue all submitted letters of resignation, while long-time board member Janice Loux communicated verbally with the governor's team indicating she would step down.
The terms of two board members — Chase, the founder and former CEO of Zipcar, and Bonfiglio, a business manager for the Massachusetts and Northern New England Laborers' District Council — were due to expire this September.
Whittle could have served until September 2016, while the terms on the board for Jenkins and Blue, who only joined in October 2013, ran through the fall of 2017.
Loux, the executive vice president of the UNITE HERE union representing hotel, gaming and food service employees, is the longest serving board member, and her term was due to run into 2018. Loux was appointed by five governors, including Republicans, to serve on the board of the MBTA until former Gov. Patrick put her on the merged MassDOT board after the 2009 reform of the transportation bureaucracy.
The Baker administration declined to release the resignation letters turned in by the board members.
Jenkins appeared to strike a defiant tone last week in the face of recommendations that the MBTA be put under the oversight of a control board.
Baker is expected to file legislation, possibly as soon as this week, calling for the MBTA to be put under the authority of a fiscal and management control board for three to five years, a recommendation made by a task force assembled by Baker to review the transit agency after its dismal winter performance.
The task force's report contained a scathing assessment of management at the T, faulting the agency for failing to spend as much as $2.2 billion in authorized capital financing to help clear a backlog of maintenance project and for overseeing a staff rife with "absenteeism."
"The Legislature created us, and the Legislature will have to eliminate us. So that report means nothing until the Legislature acts," Jenkins after a MassDOT board meeting last Wednesday.
The governor's move toward putting the MBTA under the oversight of a three-member control board has also run into some skepticism from members of the Legislature and the T's interim General Manager Frank DePaola.
DePaola, at a forum last week at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, raised concerns over how the control board would fit into the structure established by the 2009 reform law that put the transportation department and the MBTA under one umbrella.
Baker, during an appearance Tuesday morning on Boston Herald Radio, said he had a "clarifying conversation" with DePaola after his comments were made, but subsequently said that DePaola was simply "musing" when he raised "perfectly legitimate" issues about how the MassDOT board and the new MBTA control board would work together.
"He was never not on board, let's put it that way," Baker said.
Sen. Thomas McGee, a Lynn Democrat and co-chair of the Transportation Committee, said last week that he would withhold judgement on a control board until after he can question members of the governor's task force. Task force members are due to appear before McGee's committee on Monday.
"I'd love to ask the panel: What's the control board makeup? What's it going to do? What are their responsibilities? And what was their perspective on how the current board was not working?" McGee said.
Asked if he thought the current board had inhibited reforms, McGee said, "I don't believe they did."