Augusta Commission rejects transit chief nominee

The latest surprise in Au­gusta’s relationship with Mo­bility Transit, the company hired last year to run its beleaguered bus service, was Mobility’s recommendation of a former Miami-Dade County, Fla., transit director to serve as general manager.

Roosevelt Bradley, the head of the transit system for five years, presented himself to the Augusta Commission on Nov. 8 as a “top gun,” experienced at all levels, who could steer Augusta’s system to success and growth, all within the $4.6 million annual transit budget.

He said Tuesday that he’d been vetted by the Obama administration to head the Fed­e­ral Transit Adminis­tra­tion and had relatives in Au­gusta.

However, the commission voted 9-1 last week against hiring Bradley, citing his termination in Miami after 23 years for financial mismanagement.

“I guess they thought we were a bunch of yo-yos or something,” Commissioner Bill Lockett said. “Don’t they realize there is such a thing as the Internet?”

A series in the Miami Herald detailed the city’s mishandling of $800 million in sales tax funds dedicated in 2002 to bus and rail expansion. Under Bradley, overtime budgets exploded and relatives of commissioners and other politicians gained transit jobs. After he was fired, 523 new transit jobs were eliminated, The Herald reported.

Bradley said Tuesday that he was “a little political” and lost the job because he “had some issues with the new mayor.” In 2011, he ran for Miami mayor himself.

Mobility has evolved dramatically since a Tennessee-based firm fronted by Kevin Adams was awarded a bid to run Augusta’s bus service last year.

Since then, the firm’s headquarters have changed to West Palm Beach, Fla., and its leadership has shifted to Florida taxicab mogul Cullan Meathe, who owns numerous transportation companies there. Meathe has a long trail of liens and judgments against him and his companies, according to court records and media reports.

Bradley said he’d worked as a consultant for Meathe and was coming to Augusta during a “stop gap” temporarily as general manager and “turn things around.” Outgoing general manager Mike Rosson said he was leaving the company for another job.

Mobility has struggled nearly from the start of its time in Augusta. Earlier this year, Blue Cross Blue Shield canceled employee health insurance because Mo­bil­ity hadn’t paid the premiums. It was later reinstated.

In May, the city threatened to terminate its contract with Mobility for a list of issues ranging from improper driver drug testing and accident reporting to nonpayment of multiple vendors, including Geor­gia Power, which almost cut off electricity at bus facilities.

Despite the issues, the firm is continuing to save the city nearly a half-million dollars annually on transit operations, Commissioner Wayne Guilfoyle said. He and Commissioner Jerry Brigham said they voted against Bradley because he was not the direction Augusta transit needed to go.

The transit system is now headed by former city bus administrative assistant David L. Jones, who was named interim manager, according to City Administrator Fred Russell. Jones and the rest of city transit staff were laid off when Mobility took over, but most were hired by the firm.

The Mobility hire isn’t the only 2011 outsourcing decision that has come back to bite the commission. Earlier this year, the contractor hired to run Augusta Mu­nicipal Golf Course defaulted and left a dozen employees unpaid. The course is back under city management.

“Unfortunately we are not doing enough research,” Lock­­ett said. “We are making knee-jerk responses and having to pay for it in the long run.”

Topic page: Augusta public transit

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