RTA Board Votes to Boot Joe Calabrese, Transition Him to Senior Advisory Role


  • Photo by Sam Allard
The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority Board of Trustees has voted to rapidly accelerate what's being politely called a "leadership transition," which will boot CEO / GM Joe Calabrese from the organization's top position and transfer him to a senior advisory role at the end of August. 

An interim GM, thought to be Deputy GM Floun'say "Doc" Caver (though that's not confirmed), will serve in the top role until a permanent GM is named.

Calabrese has come under fire recently for his leadership during a prolonged scandal involving board chair George Dixon III and, by riders and activists, for his failure to adequately prepare for dramatic funding shortages, which have led to fare hikes and service cuts in recent years. 

Calabrese will continue serving as CEO and General Manager officially until Sep. 1. He will then serve as a "Senior Advisor for Special Projects and Strategic Innovation" in a full-time capacity between September 1, 2018 – February 28, 2019. After that date, he will serve as a part-time adviser until February 29, 2020.

Newly elected board chair Dennis Clough, Westlake's Mayor, said in a statement that the agreement was mutual, which other sources have told Scene is true. 

But a faction within the board, led by Valarie McCall (a Frank Jackson appointee) and Trevor Elkins (an appointee of the regional mayors association) pushed for Calabrese's ouster. The residue of recent bad press — skeletons from the George Dixon closet, among others — was all over Calabrese, and board members believed it was time for him to go.

The agreed-upon arrangement, however, is thought to be preferable to an outright termination, which would've have cost the agency a great deal of money without the benefit of Calabrese's knowledge and guidance on his way out. If Calabrese hadn't agreed to the deal, sources said, the board would have fired him. 

Calabrese had earlier stated that he planned to retire at the conclusion of his contract in 2020. The head of the local Amalgamated Transit Union, William Nix, called for Calabrese's ouster at a community roundtable last month.   

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