HART fires CEO Ben Limmer after whistleblower prompts investigation

Benjamin Limmer
Limmer's ouster comes after a three-month investigation.

The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board of directors fired its CEO Friday after complaints he had violated several agency policies.

A three-month investigation found Benjamin Limmer had violated a total of eight policies.

A whistleblower complaint prompted the investigation, which resulted in a 76-page report outlining how Limmer had steered HART contracts to certain vendors, hired an outside law firm without approval and improper use of his purchasing card.

In a statement after his firing, Limmer acknowledged mistakes, but argued they were without malice.

“When I arrived last spring, I was tasked by this board to transform HART into the world-class transit agency that Hillsborough County deserves. That transformation required bold action, a new executive team, and a complete internal review of policies ranging from how we hire people to how we deliver great service to our customers. As I focused on the new direction of our agency, I made avoidable errors in regards to some internal policies.  However, those errors were not intentional,” Limmer said. “I want to thank the hundreds of HART employees who have stood by me during this process and who will continue to serve the people of Hillsborough County.”

The board voted to fire Limmer 11-1. Marvin Knight was the lone no vote.

Limmer had been with the agency just seven months when the whistleblower complaint came in November.

He was hired after a protracted search to replace former CEO Katharine Eagan who left the agency in late 2017 to head the Port Authority for Allegheny County in the Pittsburgh area.

His hire came at a pivotal moment for HART as it was preparing plans for a windfall of new revenue related to the All For Transportation 1% sales surtax voters approved last November.

The HART Board tapped Carolyn House Stewart as interim CEO pending the investigation and she will continue in that role as the agency will now need to begin a new executive search.

Limmer earned $210,000 a year and oversees a $120 million annual budget.

Board members on Friday heard from Carlton Fields on the findings of the investigation. Limmer’s attorney, Ryan Barack, presented on his behalf, to no avail.

“The investigation verifies a pattern of deliberate and willful violations of policies in several different areas,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp, according to the Tampa Bay Times. “It wasn’t a one-time incident or misunderstanding on Mr. Limmer’s part.”

Limmer’s ouster comes as a crucial case is waiting for a decision from the Florida Supreme Court regarding the voter-approved 1% sales tax to fund sweeping transportation and transit improvements.

Two individuals, including Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White, are trying to overturn the tax. The Supreme Court decision is expected in four to six weeks.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected]


One comment

  • gary

    February 8, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    sounds like a witch hunt….he must be a conservative!

Comments are closed.


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