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Tampa businesswoman Kathleen Shanahan resigns from Hillsborough transit board

She cited disagreements over procurement policies and the process of hiring a new chief executive officer.

TAMPA — Tampa businesswoman Kathleen Shanahan resigned this month from Hillsborough’s transit board, citing disagreements over procurement policies and the process of hiring a new chief executive officer.

Her resignation leaves a second opening on the transit board. One of two state of Florida appointments remains vacant since John Melendez resigned in October.

Shanahan was appointed to the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board in 2014 by then-mayor Bob Buckhorn. She is the co-chief executive of Turtle & Hughes. She was previously chief executive of Tampa-based URETEK Holdings, a soil stabilization business, and chief executive of environmental and construction company WRScompass.

Shanahan was known on the board for asking detailed questions, particularly about budgets, purchases and other financials.

She has clashed with fellow board members a number of times this year, including Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp, over leadership philosophy and procurement policies.

“I strongly disagree with the precedent of procurement over engagement from the Director’s platform and do believe this can be a slippery slope to the integrity of a professional procurement process potentially being politicized,” Shanahan wrote in her letter of resignation.

Related: Hillsborough transit meeting goes off the rails during quarrel over contracts

Shanahan raised concerns over procurement policies repeatedly this year. After a drawn-out argument during January’s board meeting, Shanahan stood up, accused Kemp of pushing her own agenda and walked out. The group was left unable to do business for lack of a quorum.

The dispute arose over a $405,000 contract during a board committee meeting, but it revealed deeper divisions over the agency’s process for hiring vendors. Shanahan accused Kemp of micromanaging staff and controlling a vote. Kemp faulted Shanahan for personal attacks and trying to seize control of a meeting Kemp was chairing.

Related: Hillsborough transit agency to conduct national search for new executive

The confrontation arose again earlier this month when Shanahan and then-chairman Les Miller raised concerns about other board members micromanaging staff. The comments were part of a 40-minute discussion that saw tension arise over the role of the board when it comes to purchasing.

“I’ve got to call it out; I think this is over the line,” Shanahan said.

In her letter, Shanahan also referenced a debate over the agency’s search for a new chief executive. She called it “professionally disappointing” that board decided against naming Carolyn House Stewart as chief executive for one year while it searches for a permanent chief.

Stewart, the agency’s director of risk and legal services, was appointed interim chief executive in November when former chief Ben Limmer was placed on leave during an investigation into a whistleblower complaint.

Shanahan agreed during the June 1 meeting that a national search was important but warned that the process would be more time consuming and challenging than some board members were ready to admit.

“Many of you are underestimating the challenge it will be to attract a national candidate after some of the challenges we went through the last time,” Shanahan said, " ... and with an agency in transition on many fronts and a challenging financial situation.”

Shanahan’s resignation letter, addressed to Tampa Mayor Jane Castor and Stewart, is dated June 12. Shanahan’s picture and biography remained on the agency’s website as of Tuesday afternoon and the transit authority did not announce Shanahan’s resignation on its blog, where it posts other news.

Shahanan forwarded a copy of the signed letter to the Tampa Bay Times Tuesday.

Stewart thanked Shanahan and bid her well wishes via an email on June 15.

“Your leaving the HART Board creates a void in leadership and valuable input on critical matters,” Stewart wrote. “I appreciate the direction, suggestions, wise counsel and support you have given me and the staff while I served as the (interim chief executive officer).”

Stewart declined to talk with the Times about Shanhan’s resignation, her letter or the two open board positions.

Transit authority chairwoman Mariella Smith said she was surprised by the news when board members received the letter earlier this month.

“We appreciate her service and look forward to working with whoever the city appoints,” Smith said. “It is very important to have a strong board. I’m optimistic that we have a board full of people that are dedicated to the agency and passionate about transit and transportation.”

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