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PSTA inquiry to continue // New member joins board

Pinellas County's legislative delegation continued its probe of thecounty bus system Tuesday by endorsing a review of the system and appointing a new board member.

The legislators unanimously chose John F. Sweeney, 63, a retired transit system administrator, as one of the delegation's two representatives on the 13-member board of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA).

Sen. Mary Grizzle, R-Belleair Bluffs, delegation chairwoman, said the PSTA's biggest weakness is its management and that she nominated Sweeney because he has 38 years of experience managing transit agencies.

In picking Sweeney, a Seminole resident who has a car and does not depend on buses for regular transportation, the legislators rejected a suggestion from some PSTA passengers. They had urged legislators to pick another bus rider for the board.

"We only had the one slot," Grizzle said. "I felt the management problems were greater" than the need for a bus rider.

Sweeney worked for 38 years for ATE Management and Service Co., a

Cincinnati company that managed transit authorities throughout the country. He was general manager for transit agencies in six cities.

After he retired, Sweeney was hired by the PSTA in 1985 to do an audit of the system's drivers. He rode more than 400 buses for two years to provide a report card on each driver for safety, courtesy and timeliness.

As a result, Sweeney said he "can understand the plight of the

passenger."

The delegation Tuesday also endorsed a bill that calls for a one-year review of the PSTA's effectiveness and efficiency and would terminate the agency unless the Legislature extended its life.

Legislators, however, said they would have no plans to eliminate the agency when it came up for renewal in July 1991 under the proposed sunset law. They did say that the law would give them some legislative clout to investigate the transit agency.

The delegation started the probe last month to investigate allegations of mismanagement in the PSTA. A legislative subcommittee met with PSTA officials Feb. 1 and plans to meet quarterly during the next year.

Rep. Gerald Rehm, chairman of the subcommittee, said he wants legislators to spend a few hours "shadowing" PSTA executives so the legislators can assess the agency.

"It's important for us to understand the organization," said Rehm. "I can't pass judgment until I know a few more things."

In another PSTA development Tuesday, Larry C. Newman, the agency's

executive director, said he has postponed the start of random drug testing of the agency's employees.

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