Frank Wilson Survival Watch, Day One: He Just Keeps Us Hanging On
When Annise Parker was elected mayor, it seemed only a matter of time before Wilson was ousted from the agency. Parker was critical of Metro during her campaign, and her criticism continued after the election.
"Metro could have done a much better job of openness, transparency, accountability," the mayor said, adding that Metro had "left a lot of anger and bruised feelings."
Then Parker named five new members for Metro's nine-person board, seemingly making her agenda the priority at Metro. And during the press conference where Parker announced her board nominees -- she had just returned from meeting with Ray LaHood, the federal Secretary of Transportation -- she expressed skepticism about Metro's success if it kept its current management.
"The Secretary of Transportation made it clear that any changes would help any current uncertainties," Parker said at the press conference.
The most obvious change was getting rid of Wilson, because at that time, Metro was wrapped up in allegations that it was shredding documents that proved Wilson had spent taxpayer money on his chief of staff and alleged girlfriend.
According to some reports, Wilson was expected to announce his resignation last week. But that didn't happen. In fact, at a special Metro board meeting last week, Gilbert Garcia, the new chairman of the board, said, "Frank Wilson is still the CEO because he's doing a good job."
Garcia's comment seemed to go against everything the mayor had said previously. Janice Evans, a spokeswoman for the mayor, told Hair Balls last week that any reports that Wilson was set to resign were false, adding that the mayor was content to let the board operate independent from the mayor's control.
"They are moving through transition right now," Evans told us. "She wants to let [the new board members] get hold over there."
So to keep up with all this mess, Hair Balls presents our "Frank Wilson Survival Watch," offering the latest news out of Metro and what we think it means to his job.
1. KHOU reports that Metro fudged financial numbers to qualify for $900 million in federal funding for its planned light rail lines. This really appeared to be a kill shot for Frank Wilson, because the federal response to this report was damning. The Federal Transit Administration basically said it wouldn't approve the funding -- Metro has been expecting it for more than a year -- until it could become confident in Metro's financial figures.
Survival Rating: He's hanging on. The new Metro board appears to be standing behind Wilson on this one. Metro posted a video on its Web site, featuring its vice president for communication and marketing calling the report "completely and utterly false."
2. UHY Advisors, a consulting firm Metro hired to investigate allegations of improper spending by Wilson, released its findings. The 26-page report is full of information about the methodology of the investigation and the types of documents reviewed, but the summary of the report is that Wilson did nothing wrong.
Survival Rating: He's hanging on. This report comes from a firm that Metro hired to investigate itself, so while it's good news for Wilson and the only thing the board currently has to go on, it can't be considered the final word on the investigation. The Harris County District Attorney's Office and the FBI are still investigating Metro.
3. Metro board members are traveling this week to Washington, D.C., to meet with FTA officials about federal funding. After Garcia defended Wilson at last week's special board meeting, he added, "Right now this board is still evaluating all the facts." It was at least an indication that the board still might be out on Wilson. Some of those facts will probably be brought up at this week's meeting with the FTA.
Survival Rating: He's outta here. Apparently, the FTA hasn't been the biggest cheerleader for Wilson. When Parker returned from her meeting with FTA officials, she was basically calling for Wilson's head. And if the board decides to ignore the mayor and the federal agency that holds the $900 million check, then Frank Wilson must have nine lives.