Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

More puzzling changes found in ousted Hillsborough transit chief's contract

TAMPA — HART chief executive David Armijo was fired this week in part because some board members think he ordered his contract changed without their knowledge to make it harder to get rid of him.

But in the days since Armijo's firing from the Hilllsborough transit agency, board members have learned of yet another contract change. And this one doesn't benefit Armijo.

In his old contract, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit CEO would have received a year's severance pay if he was fired. The revised contract only requires a six-month payout — a $90,000 loss for Armijo.

Board members are confused. Armijo, who denied making any secret contract changes, said this is clear proof he didn't.

"Why would I want to reduce my severance package by 50 percent?" he said Friday. "That doesn't make any sense."

For some board members, this latest twist in the contract saga highlights what they contend are serious oversight problems at the bus agency, which has an annual budget of $62 million.

"We have to show a level of competence and right now we can't figure out how the contracts are put together," said board member Mark Sharpe, a Hillsborough County commissioner.

After Monday's firing of Armijo, board members ordered a review of all HART policies and procedures. Sharpe said Friday that he wants his peers on to go a step further and stop studies on projects that aren't already funded, including light rail.

That way, board members and agency chiefs can get back to the basics of running and managing a bus system with a tighter grip, Sharpe said.

"We're going to restore the confidence in this agency," he said.

Sharpe is one of several board members who have asked for a thorough investigation of how Armijo's contract changes came about, particularly since the issue of severance raises even more questions.

"As they say, curiouser and curiouser," said Kevin Beckner, a board member and county commissioner.

In December, board members gave Armijo a raise they approved and included in a revised contract. Clauses that appear favorable to Armijo also slipped in. One called for an additional vote on top of a majority to fire him. Another replaced fireable "for cause" violations with broad terms that define insubordination.

Those changes became known to many board members for the first time at a special meeting Monday where Armijo was facing several workplace complaints alleging conflicts of interest, favoritism and hostile demotions or reassignments.

Puzzled board members wondered then who had made the contract changes, and former HART attorney Clark Jordan-Holmes told them Armijo ordered them. Armijo wasn't asked about the contract changes. But at the end of the night, he was fired in a 7-4 vote.

"I'm as much in the dark as everybody," he said Friday. "I did not make any changes or decisions regarding those changes."

They don't make any sense to him. He wouldn't have traded the one additional vote of job security for more than $90,000 in severance, he said. He would have much preferred his old contract terms, which also benefited HART since it allowed the agency to keep him as a consultant.

Armijo said he only learned of the contract changes a month ago from his attorney. Even then, he said, he didn't know his severance pay had been cut. He declined to speculate, but said he didn't think Jordan-Holmes had a motive to change the contract, either. Jordan-Holmes did not return a call Friday.

"I think somebody just screwed up," Armijo said.

The changes included yet another questionable contract clause that came to light Friday stating Armijo could be terminated or suspended "if unable to perform her duties and responsibilities because of sickness, accident, injury, mental incapacity, or health for a period of three (3) successive months ..."

The wording was not in his past contracts.

But similar phrasing does appear in the contract of another government official whose June firing remains a contentious tangle: former Hillsborough County Administrator Pat Bean's contract.

It stated that Bean could be terminated if she was "unable to perform her duties for any reason, including but not limited to sickness, accident, injury, mental incapacity or health for a period of four successive months ..."

Since being fired, Bean and the county remain locked in a fight over hundreds of thousands of dollars of severance. Hillsborough commissioners have blamed unclear and vague definitions of firing offenses in her contract that have allowed her to continue seeking more money.

When told of the contract similarities, Armijo said he had never heard of them until now. Perhaps Jordan-Holmes' aides made a mistake, he said.

"I didn't see that," he said. "Was there a chance paralegals were doing cut and paste? That happens."

The contract similarities only heightened Sharpe's suspicions and reaffirmed his resolve to "right the ship."

"Now I hear this?" he said.

Justin George can be reached at (813) 226-3368 or

More puzzling changes found in ousted Hillsborough transit chief's contract 04/22/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 22, 2011 10:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Search for missing Army helicopter crew suspended in Hawaii


    HONOLULU — Officials have suspended the search for five Army soldiers who were aboard a helicopter that crashed during offshore training in Hawaii last week.

    Water safety officials hand over possible debris from an Army UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crash to military personnel stationed at a command center in a harbor, Wednesday in Haleiwa, Hawaii, a day after. an Army helicopter with five on board crashed several miles off Oahu's North Shore. Officials  suspended the search for five Army soldiers in a helicopter crash during offshore training in Hawaii on Monday. [Associated Press]
  2. Rubio praises Trump for 'excellent' speech on Afghanistan


    Sen. Marco Rubio praised President Donald Trump's "excellent" speech on Afghanistan. Sen. Bill Nelson was less effusive but agreed with the goal.

  3. Gov. Rick Scott blasts report of shifting words on Charlottesville


    Gov. Rick Scott, one of the most scripted politicians in modern Florida history, said Monday that ‘both sides” bore blame for Charlottesville.

  4. Record $417 million awarded in lawsuit linking baby powder to cancer


    LOS ANGELES — A Los Angeles jury on Monday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay a record $417 million to a hospitalized woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene.

    A bottle of Johnson's baby powder is displayed. On Monday, Aug. 21, 2017, a Los Angeles County Superior Court spokeswoman confirmed that a jury has ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $417 million in a case to a woman who claimed in a lawsuit that the talc in the company's iconic baby powder causes ovarian cancer when applied regularly for feminine hygiene. [Associated Press]
  5. Search under way for missing sailors; Navy chief orders inquiry


    SINGAPORE — The U.S. Navy ordered a broad investigation Monday into the performance and readiness of the Pacific-based 7th Fleet after the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker in Southeast Asian waters, leaving 10 U.S. sailors missing and others injured.

    Damage is visible as the USS John S. McCain steers toward Singapore’s naval base on Monday.