The hiring of Caltrans director Will Kempton for the Orange County Transportation Authority's vacant executive director position would seem like a step down. After all, the Schwarzenegger appointee oversees 50,000 lane miles of state highways, an annual budget of $14 billion and $10 billion in current transportation projects under way. He is expected to begin Aug. 3 at a regional agency with a $1.2 annual budget, monster cuts in bus service and a $33 million deficit.
"Finding a new CEO for OCTA with Will Kempton's transportation knowledge and experience at a time like this is a grand-slam home run for us and for everyone in Orange County," OCTA chairman Peter Buffa says in a press statement. "Will is one of the most respected leaders in transportation in the country, with a rock-solid reputation that will serve us well. We are very excited about having him join the OCTA team."
So how did the OCTA land such a heavy-hitter in Buffa's view? Perhaps it is all about money. Perhaps it is not a step down but a soft landing. Kempton earned $150,000 a year up in Sacramento. According to the Orange County Register, the OCTA board approved a three-year deal for him that includes a $255,000 annual salary, $75,000 in relocation costs, six months severance, and $25,000 deferred compensation. That troubles Save California blogger Chris Walsh, who read about the Kempton move in the Sacramento Bee.
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That type of fiscal behavior by OCTA "is a blatant slap in the face" to transit riders and taxpayers.
This is costing Orange County residence a lot of money, and OCTA neglects to see that they are running a service like it's their own personal money bag. So instead of enhancing the transit system, they go and hire a new director at a high cost, fail to make salary cuts from within, and also fail to renegotiate contracts, and hang the riders and general public out to dry, in not supplying a well run transit system.
That's not entirely fair. The OCTA is cutting the pay of its top exec. Why, Art Leahy was pulling down a cool $266,656 annual base salary before he split for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.