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Hillsborough transit CEO Ben Limmer allowed to resign instead of be fired

He’ll be paid through the first week of April and receive health care and other benefits through the end of that month.
Ben Limmer, center, sits in the audience of a Hillsborough Regional Area Transit Authority meeting earlier this month as board members discuss an investigation into his actions related to procurement and vendor relations. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times] [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
Ben Limmer, center, sits in the audience of a Hillsborough Regional Area Transit Authority meeting earlier this month as board members discuss an investigation into his actions related to procurement and vendor relations. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times] [CAITLIN JOHNSTON | CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times]

TAMPA — Hillsborough’s transit agency board approved a settlement with its chief executive that will allow him to resign following a three-month investigation into spending issues and inappropriate dealings with vendors.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority voted Monday to approve the settlement. Board chair Les Miller and fellow county commissioner Pat Kemp were the two “no” votes.

Ben Limmer, 41, started with the agency in March 2019, but was placed on paid leave in November following a complaint from a whistleblower alleging improper actions with vendors, purchasing and spending.

Related: Hillsborough transit agency fires chief executive after investigation of whistleblower complaint

Last month, the board voted to fire Limmer. But board members decided Monday to reverse that decision and pursue a settlement that would avoid a potential lengthy lawsuit from Limmer.

Under the settlement, Limmer, who makes an annual salary of $210,000, will be paid through the first week of April, agency counsel David Smith told the board. Limmer and his family will receive other benefits, including health care, through the end of that month. And the transit authority will pay him an additional $40,000 to cover other costs, fees and benefits.

Miller and Kemp said they “totally oppose” the settlement.

Related: Tampa Bay has one of the worst public transit systems in America. Here's why.

“I think this sends a wrong message to anyone else who abuses the board here and the trust in the community,” Kemp said.

But other board members, such as Temple Terrace City Council Member Gil Schisler and appointee Adam Harden, said the settlement was in the best financial interest of the public agency.

“We also have a financial responsibility to limit our loss going forward,” Schisler said. “It could (cost) considerably more.”

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