HART board considers replacing CEO as investigation into ‘hostile work environment’ begins

'Is it safe to simply ask the CEO's willingness to spare all of this and ask her willingness to resign?'

Today, as the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit board launched an investigation into management, board members discussed removing the CEO while a legal team probes allegations of a toxic workplace at the transit agency.

One HART Board Member went so far as to directly ask Adelee Le Grand if she would resign.

“The CEO is here actually with us today,” said recently elected first-term County Commissioner Joshua Wostal. “And I’m not sure if she’s going to be given an opportunity to speak, but is it safe to simply ask the CEO’s willingness to spare all of this and ask her willingness to resign?”

Le Grand did not respond to that question but spoke at the end of the meeting saying that she still welcomed the investigation. She said that allegations of toxic leadership boil down to her setting high expectations in the workplace and holding employees to a high standard.

“If that’s inappropriate, I accept that,” Le Grand said. “But that’s what we’re working to do. The work doesn’t stop, and I understand you have decisions to make, and I respect those. But the team, many of them are in the room now; we understand our expectations and the expectations are to deliver the best quality service that we can provide.”

HART board member Marvin Knight called for Le Grand to be suspended pending the investigation, or to simply be fired by the board via a vote.

But Knight was warned by David Smith, General Legal Counsel for HART, that the discussion of replacing Le Grand was not on the agenda for today. Knight was told that if the board wanted to discuss termination or suspension, it would have to happen at HART’s next regular meeting on Dec. 5.

Smith also pointed out that the board has not identified someone who would be willing to step up if Le Grand is removed as CEO.

Several other board members supported putting the discussion of suspension or firing on next month’s agenda.

But for today, the board focused on the scope of the investigation that will be launched into Le Grand’s management. They decided on an external investigation that will be led by business lawyer David Adams.

“I think we understand we’re looking into the issues that relate to and revolve around hostile work environment,” Smith said. “We’re looking into terminations and hiring new employment and tracing that to its sources. And I think that’s the scope of the investigation.”

The decision on the investigation and the call for the CEO to resign comes after at least 57 administrative employees who have departed from HART since Le Grand became CEO in 2021, either through being terminated or walking away from the agency.

Le Grand has also gone through four marketing and communications directors. The third director wrote a resignation letter calling her boss a “dictator and tyrant” which, after months of denied public records requests, was leaked to CL earlier this month.

Two weeks ago, Le Grand suddenly terminated several top-level employees. Former high-ranking employees have also gone on record with CL saying that Le Grand is “gutting” the agency.

Also earlier this month, the Tampa Bay Times reported that former Chief of Customer Experience Teri Wright, who was involved in Leporatti’s firing, was working a second job. The board decided that the question of whether or not Le Grand knew about Wright’s dual employment would also fall within the scope of the investigation.

During today’s meeting, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor said that the board should be cautious of rushing to replace Le Grand.

“I’ve been involved in a lot of investigations in my lifetime,” Castor said. “And we have to deal with the facts, and if there were policy violations and the potential of legal violations. So, the talk of suspension or termination, we don’t even have the information yet.”

Castor continued that the board doesn’t have all the facts, and that the board hired Le Grand to “try to change the culture and lift up HART as an organization, a very underfunded organization that serves our community.”

During public comment at the beginning of the meeting, Yvette Lewis, president of the NAACP, said that something needed to change, but that the problems at HART have been long-standing. Members of HART’s labor unions also called for Le Grand to step down, claiming a complete absence of leadership, especially after the latest round of firings by Le Grand.

“There are quite a few concerns that we’ve been having in the last five, six months or so,” Ismael Rivera, a union representative for ATU local 1593 told the board. “Right now, the way it stands with all this miscommunication, scandals, and toxic work environment, whatever you want to call it, we have members out there right now that have no guidance, no leadership. No one knows what to do.”


Justin Garcia reporting via Creative Loafing Tampa Bay.

Creative Loafing


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