Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Toll money down the toilet: NTTA continues to pay former executive director's $260,000 salary with commuters' toll taxes--even after his resignation.

N. Texas Tollway Boss Quits But Still Gets Paid

Jorge Figueredo Still Drawing $260,000 Salary


Jack Fink
CBS 11 News (Dallas, TX)
Copyright 2008

How would like to make tens of thousands of dollars a month? What if that were possible without having a job? CBS 11 News has learned the North Texas Tollway Authority is continuing to pay its former executive director, with your toll money, despite the fact he suddenly resigned earlier this month for family reasons.

Times are tight at the NTTA, but not tight enough to keep the agency from paying its former boss a generous severance package. Jorge Figueredo is set to be paid for up to a year, or until he gets a new job.

Like thousands of other drivers, Carolyn Speese says she and her family spend hundreds of dollars each year driving the area's toll roads. She's not happy after hearing the NTTA is continuing to pay nearly $22,000 a month in salary to Figueredo.

"I think I'd like to have a job like that," Speese told CBS 11 News. "That's unbelievable. I don't understand in this economy how we can be throwing money down the toilet like that."

In his resignation statement, Figueredo said, "The difficulties encountered over this period as a result of being separated from my family in Florida have been more of a burden on me than I ever anticipated, and have convinced me that this is the course of action I must take at this time."

Figueredo's contract calls for a 90-day written notice -- which he did not provide. Despite not following proper procedure, the NTTA board is still paying Figueredo his salary of $260,000 a year. Plus they paid him an additional $22,000 for accrued vacation days.

The contract concerns Michael Q. Sullivan, with Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, who called the continuing payments 'troubling'.

Sullivan says executives with public agencies like the NTTA, which operates the large network of North Texas toll roads, should realize "If they voluntarily depart, they understand the paycheck ends. That didn't happen in this case which raises red flags to us."

CBS 11 News tried asking NTTA Board Chairman Paul Wageman why the agency is still paying Figueredo with your money if he voluntarily left for family reasons. Since Wageman wouldn't make himself available and wouldn't return calls to explain, those questions haven't been answered.

The move to continue paying the six-figure salary comes at a time when the NTTA is hurting. The credit crisis has hit the NTTA hard as it tries to finance new toll roads and projected revenues are down by $25 million.

"I think its incumbent on the board to explain the situation… to address the situation. Why are they paying the guy $22,000 a month for doing nothing," Sullivan questioned.

NTTA officials acknowledge Figueredo is receiving severance pay, even though he quit on his own.

In a statement, the agency said, "Figueredo was concerned about the effects of his working in North Texas while separated from his family in Florida and the board of directors was very receptive toward those concerns."

Figueredo's contract says the board will continue compensating him if he's terminated for "lack of performance, failing to meet board goals and objectives, or other reasons."

NTTA officials said "in light of the board's sympathy for Figueredo's situation and the latitude implied by the 'or other reasons' phrase in the contract, the board felt that providing the severance package was reasonable and justified..."

But remember, Figueredo was not terminated, he resigned.

Sullivan says, "The board needs to come clean in this case."

By granting the severance, the board also changed provisions in Figueredo's contract after the fact.

They waived the required 90 day notice.

The board also added two months of temporary housing allowance to the six months in his contract for a total of $20,000.

They also provided two round trip tickets to Figueredo for each of the first six months he was employed. NTTA also offered his wife two round-trip tickets, but she never used them.

Driver Paul Lac says he uses the toll road everyday, and is outraged. "I would like my toll road money back. If that's the case, we should spend the money improving the roads."

CBS 11 News left a message for Figueredo at his Florida home, but he never called back.

The NTTA board meets Wednesday morning and CBS 11 News will be there to ask board members more questions about their decision to continue paying Figueredo with your money.

-3 year contract
-$260,000 annual salary ($21,666 monthly)
-$20,538.55 in additional 401 K payments for 2007 and 2008
-$22,345 in accrued vacation days as part of severance payment
-20 vacation days each year
-20 sick days each year
-$2,500 monthly for temporary housing allowance for first 8 months (*two more than in contract, but later approved by Board)
-$2,522 in relocation expenses
-health insurance
-two round-trip coach plane tickets monthly for first six months
-two round-trip coach plane tickets total for his wife, but not used
-$781.25 monthly car allowance - $12,500 for 16 months
-$150 monthly cell phone stipend

© 2008 CBS Broadcasting Inc.:

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