Is Port Authority CEO Steve Bland out as chief?

Fitzgerald, CEO have been at odds; board meets today


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Steve Bland's six-year tenure as Port Authority CEO could end this morning at the behest of Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, sources said.

Mr. Bland is expected either to resign and accept a severance package or to face a motion calling for his termination when the board of directors meets, according to a source knowledgeable about the situation.

But it was unclear Thursday night whether the nine-member board had enough votes to fire Mr. Bland, the source said.

The board has strongly supported him in the past.

"Right now, we're in limbo," said a board member who plans to vote against firing Mr. Bland.

The board member, who asked not to be named, said Mr. Fitzgerald is trying to interfere with the agency's operations.

"I feel sorry for Steve [Bland]. He's done the job," the board member said.

Amie Downs, a spokeswoman for Mr. Fitzgerald, said the county does not comment on personnel issues.

Although the Port Authority operates semi-independently of the county, its directors are appointed by the county executive and then approved by county council. The board selects the CEO.

Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Bland have had a strained relationship in the past.

In May, Mr. Fitzgerald was upset by Light Rail Transit delays following a Pirates game.

At the time, he told the Post-Gazette, "This problem is going to get solved. If it can't get solved by the people who are here, we'll find people who can solve it."

He later issued a statement threatening "top to bottom" changes.

In June, Mr. Fitzgerald called for 13 Light Rail Transit stops to be eliminated, and he ordered the authority to make other changes to improve service and efficiency on the system.

Ms. Downs said she would not comment on the county executive's relationship with the CEO.

In August, Mr. Bland was one of three finalists for the position of executive director at the Jacksonville Transportation Authority in Florida. A month later, he was one of two left in the running for the top job at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority in Georgia. He was not selected for either position.

The Port Authority's board of directors will hold its public meeting at 9:30 a.m. today.

The board will also hold its annual meeting, during which new officers are to be elected, according to meeting agendas posted on the Port Authority's website.

Port Authority spokesman Jim Ritchie declined comment Thursday night.

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Lexi Belculfine: lbelculfine@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc. Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Twitter: @pgtraffic. First Published January 25, 2013 5:00 AM


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