The chief executive of the public transit agency serving the Tampa area stepped down Tuesday afternoon, ending a two-and-a-half year tenure that culminated in a monthslong investigation into her leadership.
The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit agency board unanimously agreed to give Adelee Le Grand a $88,438.71 settlement agreement plus two months of health insurance. Her departure comes as HART faces a renewed spotlight as state lawmakers consider studying the agency’s management structure to improve efficiency and service.
Le Grand assumed the top role in January 2021, pledging to foster a culture of “trust and transparency” at HART, which oversees a service area of approximately 1,000 square miles.
She was suspended with pay in March after a board-approved, tax-payer funded investigation by Tampa-based attorney David Adams. He found her behavior caused poor organization morale, violation of agency policy and state law, “abnormal administrative turnover” and “tremendous disruption.”
After more than two hours of debate Tuesday afternoon, the board — whose members include Tampa Mayor Jane Castor — unanimously agreed to offer Le Grand a severance package of about $66,000, including more than $10,000 to cover half of her attorney fees.
Le Grand and her lawyer rejected the offer, but agreed to split the difference between that and her initial demand for a $110,668.08 package, composed of 60 days worth of paid administrative leave, retirement savings plan payments and 394 hours of accrued annual leave.
Le Grand was contractually entitled to about 70% of the accepted settlement package under her employment agreement, board chair and Tampa City Councilmember Luis Viera said Tuesday.
In a meeting marked by convoluted back-and-forth discussions between lawyers and board members, most seemed largely united in their desire to release HART from future liability, capping off months of tumult.
“This relationship has got to be severed,” Mayor Castor said Tuesday. “And it is better to get it over with sooner rather than later, and without drawing it out through litigation.”
“We’ve got a lot of important work to do. Closure does have a value,” board member Tyler Hudson said in support of the agreement.
The investigation into complaints accusing Le Grand of mismanagement began late last year, after the Tampa Bay Times revealed HART’s chief customer experience officer had for months also been working for a public transit agency in New Orleans — netting more than $350,000 per year. Working both jobs at the same time was in violation of both agencies’ policies.
Keep up with Tampa Bay’s top headlines
Subscribe to our free DayStarter newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Adams found evidence to counter statements Le Grand has previously given the Times and in public meetings regarding her knowledge of double-dipping.
To date, Adams’ firm has billed the transit agency $46,124.62 to conduct the investigation, according to public records.
Le Grand’s departure Tuesday came after a string of statements from her lawyer, Steven Wenzel, that the investigation was improperly conducted.
In March, following the first presentation of investigative findings, Wenzel said “there is contrary evidence that is strong and persuasive.” The board agreed to a May special meeting so Wenzel could prepare a defense.
The next day, he wrote to HART’s general counsel to say he will “be moving to recuse certain board members” who have indicated in their statements to the press that “they prejudged this matter,” according to public records obtained by the Times.
Then, in late April, Wenzel wrote to HART outside attorney Cindy Townsend, describing Adams’ presentation of the investigative findings as “sloppy, inaccurate and factually incorrect.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, in which Le Grand did not publicly address the board, he called HART a “badly broken organization.”
This is a developing story. Please check tampabay.com for updates.