HART CEO Adelee Le Grand is out after months of scandal

The leader of Hillsborough's transit authority has been fired after an independent investigation revealed potential violations.

HART CEO Adelee Le Grand is out after months of scandal

Adelee Le Grand has resigned as the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority's CEO. Her two years and more at the helm of the organization were marred by scandal.

HART's board of directors unanimously approved a settlement with Le Grand on Tuesday, following an independent investigation which, among other findings revealed a possible violation of state laws regarding severance payments. The report also stated that Le Grand withheld information from the board regarding the dual employment by a senior employee.

Le Grand's employment will end immediately. She will receive an $88,438.71 lump-sum. Le Grand and her attorney Steven Wenzel argued over the exact amount. Le Grand initially offered $110,668.

Le Grand was to be parted with as quickly as possible. Since being suspended from work in March, she has made about $30,000. Several board members were also concerned about potential litigation, and the attorney fees that would result.

Rena Upshaw Frazier, a board member said: "Our duty is to HART. There's a cost/benefit analysis to determine whether we want to terminate the CEO for cause, versus what the best outcome is to move forward and deal with other threats.

Hillsborough's Transit Agency is basically in survival mode. HART's operational funding is still uncertain, despite a recent study by state lawmakers into its management structure.

It is not a novel idea for the agency to find a replacement CEO. Since Katharine Agan's departure in January 2018, five individuals have been appointed as interim or permanent CEOs.

David Adams, an attorney who conducted the independent investigation of Le Grand, responded to Wenzel's rebuttal on Tuesday. He remained firm in his conclusion that there was a violation of Florida Statutes 215.425 which limits severance pay to six weeks.

Wenzel responded that the six layoffs, which were implemented one day after the failure of the transportation surtax, saved the organization a lot of money over the long term. Wenzel said Le Grand did not authorize the payments. This includes the tens-of-thousands of dollars paid out to Nikki Frenney, Teri Wright and other key figures in the investigation.

Michael Owen, a board member, said that he did not find Wenzel’s argument convincing. Mayor Jane Castor on the other hand said he made some good points. Owen felt Wenzel bullied the board prior to a resolution being adopted.

Adams added more information Tuesday. Le Grand did not put Wright on part-time status (who was working for both HART, and the public transportation agency in violation of the policies of both agencies) until the Tampa Bay Times published a story in November 2022 exposing Wright's dual employment. Le Grand claimed that she had done this as soon as she learned of the dual employment in October. Wenzel claimed that she requested it but it never happened.

The timeline for the hiring of a new CEO was not clearly stated. Scott Drainville serves as interim chief of the agency.

In a press release, board chair Luis Viera stated that he was "applauding the actions of my fellow board members in bringing to an end this issue." It is crucial that we continue to work together in order to preserve HART services for the hardworking residents of our community. I think we can all work together to be better fiscal stewards, and make the necessary changes for greater transparency while still preserving our mission of locally-controlled mass transit.

Le Grand stated in a press release that she wished the employees of HART all the best.