Sam Allard / Scene
"Rally to Save Transit," Public Square, 3/12/2018
At a strange and lengthy Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) annual board meeting Tuesday, Westlake Mayor Dennis Clough was elected president of the agency's board of trustees.
Clough has been an RTA board member since 1999 and has served as interim president since the resignation of longtime president George Dixon earlier this year in the midst of an investigation
. Clough carried the vote 8-0 Tuesday, with Mayor Frank Jackson's Chief of Government and International Affairs Valarie McCall abstaining.
board member Kelley Britt did not cast a vote either. Evidently, she is waiting for a decision by the Ohio Ethics Commission regarding whether or not her RTA board appointment represents a conflict of interest with her current position at the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency. She will not vote until she receives a decision.
Both Clough and Valarie McCall had submitted letters of interest for the President's seat. (McCall was also interested in the Vice President's seat, per Karen Gabriel Moss, who chaired the board's three-member nominating committee.)
The vote was held after a nearly two-hour private executive session during which the board discussed the preliminary results of an audit and a personnel matter involving RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese, appended to the agenda Monday evening.
Both Clough and McCall gave brief comments before the vote.
Clough, speaking extemporaneously, said he felt privileged to ask his colleagues for the presidency. He called RTA a "great organization" and said that as president, he would commit himself with the "same type of effort" that he had put forth for the past 18 years.
McCall, in measured tones, read the letter of interest that she'd submitted to her colleagues in full. She said that as a lifelong Clevelander, she has been a consistent advocate for transit riders and said she wanted to lead the agency into the future, embracing new technologies. She cited her "vast" administrative experience.
She repeated, however, something she has stated before: that RTA is not ready to ask taxpayers for a levy because of internal problems. She said that, among other things, the RTA board is riddled with mistrust — exacerbated by recent media coverage — and that the agency has to change. She said leadership must be "bold, open, honest and transparent."
"I don't think we're taking the issues in front of us seriously," McCall said. "I don't think we should be in a position when one day we're on the same page and the next day we're not."
With that, McCall withdrew her name from consideration for both the presidency and the vice presidency. Rev. Charles Lucas was nominated and elected as Vice President. The vote was 8-0, with McCall abstaining again.
One suspects that McCall would not have been inclined to voice her reservations had she, and not Clough, been the presumptive winner.