Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Florida's Inspector General Needs to Investigate and Financially Audit Fiscally Failing HART Transit Agency


HART transit agency is a big mess and is going insolvent. The State needs to step in to investigate HART's financial mismanagement and do an independent audit of HART.

HART has been fiscally mismanaged for years by a governing HART Board who refused to address HART's fiscal failures.

As we reported here, HART was driven into the ground by the same people who supported the All for Transportation (AFT) $23 Billion transit tax.

The supporters of the massive 30 year AFT tax hike wanted taxpayers, especially those in unincorporated Hillsborough, to bail out HART. That is why AFT mandated HART receive the largest share of the transit tax proceeds ($10-11 Billion) when HART has a dismal ridership of less than 2%.

Transit agency COVID relief money was intended to keep transit services operating when transit ridership tanked even more during the pandemic. HART irresponsibly used one-time COVID relief money in 2021 to hand huge raises to its top highly paid administrators. 

HART handed their new CEO - Adelle LeGrand, who had been there only a year, a $37,500 raise. 

The feckless HART Board approved all those big raises - during a pandemic when ridership tanked. Those raises are now baked into HART's exploding operating costs.

HART and its irresponsible Board used bad judgment. They thought voters would pass the 2022 AFT transit tax and hand HART Billions of new tax dollars. 

HART and its Board knew if HART got their hands on billions of new AFT tax dollars, they could cover up HART's financial incompetence and malfeasance. Then no one would ever be held accountable for HART's financial failure.

HART's been thru numerous CEO's over the last 10-12 years. They ran off a previous CFO who tried to right HART's sinking ship. In other words HART does not properly hire their CEO and they run off the employees who wanted to fix HART's finances. 

Now being reported is this latest HART debacle:

A senior employee at Hillsborough County’s transit agency has been working a second full-time job for a Louisiana transit agency since April, according to public records. Officials with both agencies told the Tampa Bay Times that they didn’t know she had two jobs.

Teri Wright was hired by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority as chief customer experience officer on Feb. 1 last year, with an annual starting salary of $200,271.75.

She had previously worked at the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority as director of customer experience from August 2017 until leaving Feb. 5, 2021.

Wright began working for the New Orleans agency again 14 months after her start date with HART, as the agency’s senior director of communications. Her starting salary was $155,000, according to Darwyn B. Anderson, the agency’s chief human resources officer. 

HART chief executive officer Adelee Le Grand said she was unaware of Wright’s dual employment, calling the news “very unfortunate.” She added: “When someone breaks the rules it is important to move on without them.”

Le Grand said Wright reported directly to her, and she was a respected member of staff. “I thought she was really good at her role,” Le Grand told The Times.
How did this latest HART debacle happen?
Because HART is a dysfunctional transit agency governed by an irresponsible Board. It is the taxpayers who are paying for HART's fiscal failure. It is the transit dependent who rely on HART who will suffer from HART's fiscal failures.

HART needs a new Board. Current HART Board members who allowed HART to be run into the ground must be replaced. The make up of the HART Board requires much better representation from throughout the entire county.

HART's known problems are numerous. There may be more issues and problems at HART that have not yet been exposed. 
HART will  be insolvent soon. Hillsborough County taxpayers and voters deserve to know why and how HART got into such a fiscal mess. 

HART receives State tax dollars. FDOT has continued to 100% subsidize, with your tax dollars, every ride on the Tampa Streetcar. The Tampa Streetcar is a tourist amenity the State is subsidizing when the local tourist tax should be paying for it.

And HART is governed as its own special taxing district under State Statute 163.570.
So the State has skin in the game to protect taxpayers and to guard against incompetence, negligence, willful neglect and malfeasance caused by a transit agency governed by State Statute.
It is reasonable to assume many voters in Hillsborough County did not know HART already had a long term funding source - their own property tax assessment. It is reasonable to assume many voters did not know HART could put their own referendum on the ballot asking voters to raise HART's own revenues.
Voters were not told this information by the Tampa Centric 5 commissioners who put the $23 Billion transit tax on the ballot. They were not told this information by All for Transportation, who crafted the massive tax hike outside Sunshine and behind closed doors in 2018 with no public input.

The County and HART were not honest with voters about HART's dire financial position or why HART had to receive most of the AFT transit dollars.

The current HART Board allowed HART's operating costs to explode on their watch.

The State must step in to get answers for how and why HART became such a fiscal mess and determine who all is responsible for HART's financial decline.  

It's time for Florida's Inspector General to conduct a full investigation and perform an independent financial audit of HART's operations over the last 10 years.  

This must be done or HART cannot regain any sense of credibility or the trust of taxpayers.




  1. Where was OPPAGA when they were doing their audit of HART before it was placed on the ballot. According to the TPO LRTP 2045, you know the one that the sales tax was based on, it stated in its evaluation of HART that even if the tax wasn't passed the bus service would reach 50% MORE people in 2045 than it does now. Now HART is going bankrupt in 2025? HART isn't the only one that needs to be audited. TPO and OPPAGA too!

  2. I have been saying the HART Board was irresponsible when hiring the past two CEOs, Carolyn House Stewart, and Adelee LeGrand. They fired CEO Ben Limmer for fewer reasons than they have had for firing either of these women. Why did they hire them? One reason only. They are black women. Neither had ever lead an agency the size of HART. Both caused hostile working environments. Both threw temper tantrums when anyone questioned them or suggested a different direction. HART has bled off more than 50 high-quality employees who spent years stretching every single dollar as far as possible to give Hillsborough County citizens the best service possible. It's a shame it has gotten so bad, but had the media paid better attention, instead of being blinded by Democrat Board members, perhaps HART would be in better condition.

    1. Now you know that is plain BS, non-bargaining employees got big fat bonuses along 2 to 3 pay raises a year, most non-bargaining employees were/are underworked and overpaid. Also there is nowhere a record that 50 (fifty) people supposedly left HART in the last year. The majority did not left they just got title-changes for the same work but accompanied with big fat pay raises

  3. I know of a former employee who keeps an eye on HART's financials since 2010, she has all the records, even more than HART has because they got rid of a lot of records. She also has proof how HART gives false reports to people who request "public records" about paid internal surveys. There are the REAL report and reports for the public. THAT WAS THE MAIN REASON HART GOT RID OF HER but they still had the nerve to send people asking for copies of those records and she said "NOPE, you should have kept your records". I blame the board of directors especially Ms. Kemp who cherishes the ground this LeGrand is walking on. Time to get rid of her too. This former employee has records of all the pay raises, bonuses going back all the way to 2011

  4. We don't need an independent auditor. We need the state attorney. How much of what Ms. Jackson is saying true? What other unknown problems are there? What did the board members know and when did they know it? Oh, what a web we weave.

  5. Whatever happened to the bonuses they got from the transportation tax? That was like the first move made after the tax was passed.