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OCTA CEO Decision Delayed

The agency's board members rescheduled a vote on the selection of the agency's next CEO until next year. Monday was the last day for outgoing chariman, Paul Glaab, former mayor of Laguna Niguel.

On Monday Orange County Transportation Authority board members rescheduled a vote on the selection of the agency's next chief executive officer until next year, a decision that has to be remade because they violated open meetings law when Deputy Chief Executive Officer Darrell Johnson was given the job last month.

Monday was also the last meeting for many board members, including who pushed for Johnson to succeed CEO Will Kempton, who is leaving the agency in February. Johnson and Kempton are both Rancho Santa Margarita residents.

The board members decided it would be best to postpone the decision on Kempton's replacement until the Jan. 14 meeting when 10 new members are due to be sworn in on the 17-member board, the OCTA's Joel Zlotnik said.

The board's vote Nov. 26 to have Johnson be OCTA's next CEO was questioned because of a new law this year that prevents "acting on CEO or executive compensation in a special meeting, and that's what occurred in this case,'' Zlotnik said.

"They should rescind the original contract,'' said OCTA board member John Moorlach, who is also the Orange County Board of Supervisors chairman.

"They should do a national search and they should modify the contract to strip out the severance clause.''

That clause would pay Johnson six months of salary, or about $128,000, if he is let go, Moorlach said. Moorlach noted Kempton will be on the job until the end of February, "so there's no hurry. We never had to rush this thing.'' 

Johnson's appointment came just 10 days after Kempton announced his retirement. Glaab, who presided over his last meeting as the OCTA board chairman, said the agency will regret the delay in appointing Johnson to the top job.

"I just really think that's a huge mistake and they will come to pay for it,'' . "It's something being done for myopic reasons ... and I think it's the wrong decision to delay the inevitable.''

Conducting a national search for a new CEO would be "sending the wrong message,'' Glaab said.

Glaab is worried Johnson will take a job elsewhere.

Johnson "has been offered the top position in San Jose that he is free to take,'' Glaab said. "He gets a job offer a week.''

Glaab downplayed the Brown Act violation: "It was not a major issue,'' Glaab said. "It was a very minor technicality.''

Glaab added that the severance package was no big deal, comparing it to a "rounding error'' in accounting.

Johnson started working at the OCTA in 2003 and has been Kempton's deputy since 2010. Before joining the OCTA, Johnson worked at Amtrak for a dozen years in a variety of positions.

– City News Service

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