Photo courtesy of RTA
RTA board chairman George Dixon III
In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) Board of Trustees announced that former board president George Dixon III owes the agency more than $1.1 million in unpaid health insurance premium, health benefits and cell phone bills.
Dixon, who had served as president of the board for 24 years, resigned in March amidst an investigation into unpaid health insurance premiums. RTA offered health insurance to its board members, but Dixon was the only trustee to take advantage of the offer. (The practice was outlawed by a board vote yesterday.)
After a lengthy private executive session, the board announced that it had voted to refer Dixon's case to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office, the state auditor and the Ohio Ethics Commission. It rejected an offer from Dixon to incrementally repay his $140,000 in unpaid health insurance premiums. The board said it wants to collect the costs of the health benefits as well, worth roughly $970,000.
"We will do whatever it takes," said South Euclid Mayor and RTA Board Member Georgine Welo. "Mr. Dixon abused the public trust for personal benefit."
According to the board, Dixon persuaded "lower-echelon" staff members to keep him insured, overdue payments notwithstanding. He received official warnings about his missed payments more than once. And recently, some of his checks had been returned for insufficient funds. In a press release, RTA said that it would "address those employees responsible, per the GCRTA code of ethics and personnel procedures."
*This story has been updated. A previous version erroneously stated that RTA would seek reimbursement from employees who aided Dixon.
Clevelanders for Public Transit released a statement expressing their disappointment in the news.
"As ridership declined to an all-time low in 2017, RTA board members appointed by the City of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County were content to reappoint Dixon as chairman for the twenty-fourth year," the riders' advocacy group said. "Dixon’s departure presents an opportunity for meaningful positive change through which RTA staff and and elected officials can—and must— prioritize riders. With a current board appointment available, Clevelanders for Public Transit is calling upon County Executive Armond Budish to appoint a RTA rider to RTA’s Board of Trustees."
Mayor Frank Jackson designated Kelley Britt
, a NOACA planner, to replace Dixon on the board earlier this week. She attended her first meeting yesterday.