MBTA General Manager Daniel Grabauskas says he is not interested in renewing his contract when it expires next May.
“I'll fulfill my obligations under my contract, and my obligations to the people I said I was going to serve,” Grabauskas said at a press conference Thursday. “But, I'll admit that I don't know that I'll be looking for a renewal of the contract at the end of the five years.”
His decision comes after a week of heavy criticism from several members of the MBTA board of directors and Transportation Secretary James Aloisi.
Board members Janice Loux, Ferdinand Alvaro and Darnell Williams sent a letter (PDF) to Aloisi questioning Grabauskas' commitment following an NTSB crash report that found the MBTA lacked "a culture of safety."
Grabauskas was on scheduled furlough and unavailable for comment on the day the report was released. Aloisi publicly chastised Grabauskas, saying, “You are never on furlough when you are a high government official.”
Four other board members sent Aloisi an impassioned letter in defense of Grabauskas (PDF) on Thursday.
“We have found him responsible, innovative, and focused on customer service and safety,” the letter said. “General Manager Grabauskas has had, and continues to have, our confidence.” The letter was signed by board members Willie Davis, Grace Shepard, Frank Chin and Baron Martin.
Grabauskas called Aloisi’s comments “political." He held the same opinion of the first MBTA board members' letter critical of his performance. Grabauskas and Aloisi’s working relationship — initially cordial when Aloisi took the helm at the Executive Office of Transportation — has grown increasingly caustic over the past weeks.
Aloisi declined to comment on Grabauskas’s contract non-renewal announcement Thursday. He told the Boston Globe on Wednesday, “This is about getting it right. And attempts to change the discussion, frankly, by throwing politics into it or throwing personality into it, that’s not right, it’s not fair.”
Gov. Deval Patrick stoked the controversy Wednesday. “We’ve had two serious accidents within a short time frame,” he said, referring to the 2008 and 2009 crashes on the MBTA’s Green Line. “We’ve got serious fiscal issues at the T, so serious that even with some infusion of new state dollars they are still considering a fare increase, something that could not come at a worse time.”
Patrick declined to note that his own transportation secretary, Aloisi, directed Grabauskas to increase T fares. The fare hike could go into effect this September. Aloisi serves as chairman of the MBTA board of directors and has frequently told reporters that a fare increase is necessary as a “long-term solution” to put the T in “better financial shape for a period of two to three years.”
Legislators have also come to Grabauskas’s defense. Sen. Stephen Baddour, co-chairman of the state transportation committee, called the criticisms “disingenuous.”
“Let’s just put the politics aside,” Baddour said. “We’ve got enough problems in Massachusetts already. Let’s focus on what matters, and that’s assuring people are on a safe, affordable transit system.”
Though Grabauskas said he will serve as general manager until his contract expires in May, pressure is mounting to bring his tenure to an early close.
The dual letters in support and opposition to Grabauskas reveal an MBTA board strikingly divided over the T chief’s performance. The board is scheduled to meet with Grabauskas on August 6 to discuss whether or not he will complete the remaining nine months of his contract.
This program aired on July 30, 2009. The audio for this program is not available.