Metro Councilman Has New Job At TARC — And He’s Keeping His Elected Seat Friday, Sep 18 2020 

'

Louisville Metro Councilman Pat Mulvihill is now the top lawyer at the Transit Authority of River City — and hes keeping his council seat, too.

Mulvihill has represented District 10, which stretches from Germantown south to Watterson Park, since 2015. The Democrat draws a $48,790 annual council salary. 

Pat Mulvihill


CLICK ON TITLE TO READ FULL ARTICLE.
'

Metro Councilman Has New Job At TARC — And He’s Keeping Elected Seat Friday, Sep 18 2020 

Louisville Metro Councilman Pat Mulvihill is now the top lawyer at the Transit Authority of River City — and he’s keeping his council seat, too.

Mulvihill has represented District 10, which stretches from Germantown south to Watterson Park, since 2015. The Democrat draws a $48,790 annual council salary. 

J. Tyler Franklin

Councilman Pat Mulvihill

Though city lawyers have concluded Mulvihill can legally hold both jobs, council members and ethics experts say such a move creates the perception of a conflict of interest. At TARC, Mulvihill reports to the executive director, who is appointed by Mayor Greg Fischer. That means he in essence is working at Fischer’s discretion. This, critics say, could muddy his ability to be an impartial voice for his district.

“It causes concerns,” said Metro Council President David James, also a Democrat. “Constituents could wonder if he is voting what he thinks is right or if he is voting for what the mayor wants.”

Mulvihill worked as Fischer’s general counsel and director of legislative affairs from 2011 to 2014. A spokesman for Fischer did not respond to a request for comment.  

[Read: Before contractor billed TARC for no work, She worked for MSD director]

Mulvihill said he doesn’t see the two jobs as a conflict, and he intends to recuse himself as a councilman from anything connected to TARC.

“Before I took the job, I tried to do as much due diligence as I could,” Mulvihill said.

When asked his salary for the TARC role, which he started this week, he said that could be obtained through an open records request.

TARC has been engulfed in scandal in recent months. The agency’s former executive director, Ferdinand Risco, resigned earlier this year after being credibly accused of sexual assault and harassment, and misappropriating agency funds. The council is currently investigating TARC for issues related to the scandals brought on by Risco. 

The opinion of the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission states that Mulvihill should recuse himself from any discussion, decision making or voting related to any matter involving TARC that comes before the council.

The commission stated that although the city’s Ethics Code does not ban holding simultaneous positions of an employee of TARC and a councilmember, “the public may reasonably conclude this is a conflict.”

Last week, Fischer announced a new executive director for the agency — Carrie Butler, the former general manager of the public transit system in Lexington. Fischer had appointed interim co-executive directors to lead the agency while a new leader was hired, and a TARC spokesman said they hired Mulvihill.

A ‘Terrible’ Public Perception

When council members take jobs for other public entities it sullies their ability to be impartial and calls into question the validity of votes, positions and representation, said Richard Beliles, the state chair of Common Cause, a national nonpartisan government watchdog group.

“It’s a problem,” he said.” I think it’s a decision that should be reversed.”

Eric King, a spokesman for TARC, said the agency isn’t focused on the perception of a conflict of interest, but instead on if someone is qualified — and he said Mulvihill is. 

Mulvihill’s mother, Mary Margaret Mulivhill, is credited with playing a pivotal role in the creation of TARC in the 1970s when she served as a city Alderwoman. She died late last month.

“It’s really full circle for him,” King said of Mulvihill’s hiring.

Mulvihill obtained opinions from the Kentucky League of Cities, the Jefferson County Attorney and the Louisville Metro Ethics Commission that “opined favorable to his service,” King said.

The three agencies found no legal standing that would prevent Mulvihill from serving both as a council member and as a top executive for TARC, a review of the opinions show. 

But the opinion from the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office, where Mulvihill has twice worked in the past, warned that accepting the job at TARC could lead to his Metro Council seat being vacated if a court found the two positions incompatible.

Beliles, a longtime ethics expert in Kentucky, said legal opinions aside, the situation “just looks bad.”

Councilman Brent Ackerson, a Democrat who chairs the council’s Government Oversight and Accountability committee, said even if it’s legal for Mulvihill to serve both as a council member as TARC general counsel, it “has a terrible public perception.”

The council has a role in several aspects of TARC’s operations: it votes to approve TARC board appointees, which are recommended by Fischer. The council also approves the transit authority’s budgeted spending from a mass transit trust fund, which holds occupational tax funds and accounts for a bulk of the agency’s annual budget. 

Louisville Attorney Peter L. Ostermiller, who specializes in ethics law, said Mulvihill would be wise to abstain from voting on any matter that relates to TARC.

“They wouldn’t have the interest if they don’t vote,” he said. “But that requires the person to be very diligent.”

Such recusal is necessary on the council’s actions and any action taken by TARC that will be submitted to the council, said Richard Briffault, a professor of legislation at Columbia Law School.

“One way or the other, he won’t be able to do the job he is supposed to do,” he said.

And if he can’t participate on the council, he is ultimately silencing his constituents, Briffault said.

“He’s denying his voters their say.”

This story has been updated to include comments from Councilman Mulvihill, who returned a call after publication. Contact Jacob Ryan at jryan@kycir.org.

The post Metro Councilman Has New Job At TARC — And He’s Keeping Elected Seat appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

Before Contractor Billed TARC For No Work, She Worked For MSD Director Monday, Sep 14 2020 

'

A scathing report released last week revealed widespread misspending and sexual misconduct at Louisville’s public transit agency. Much of the report focused on then-executive director Ferdinand Risco’s relationship with a contractor who was paid more than $228,000 for no demonstrable work. 

That contractor previously worked for another top city official: Tony Parrott, the executive director of the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District. When he worked in Cincinnati, Parrott paid the same contractor $3 million over five years, a deal one city councilman at the time called “unconscionable.” 

This is not a coincidence: Parrott introduced the contractor to Risco.


CLICK ON TITLE TO READ FULL ARTICLE.
'

Before Contractor Billed TARC For No Work, She Worked For MSD Director Monday, Sep 14 2020 

A scathing report released last week revealed widespread misspending and sexual misconduct at Louisville’s public transit agency. Much of the report focused on then-executive director Ferdinand Risco’s relationship with a contractor who was paid more than $228,000 for no demonstrable work. 

That contractor previously worked for another top city official: Tony Parrott, the executive director of the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District. When he worked in Cincinnati, Parrott paid the same contractor $3 million over five years, a deal one city councilman at the time called “unconscionable.” 

This is not a coincidence: Parrott introduced the contractor to Risco.

The referral came just months after an Ohio state audit revealed Parrott had misspent more than $750,000 on bloated, often unnecessary contracts during his time running Cincinnati MSD.

Risco was fired in February after sexual assault and harassment allegations from staff came to light.

(Read: Investigation Uncovers Ex-TARC Director’s Sexual, Financial Misconduct)

The contractor that worked with Risco at TARC was not named in the report because she has accused him of sexual assault. But her attorney confirmed her identity, and the report makes it fairly clear who she is: the same woman who Parrott worked with closely for over a decade in Cincinnati. 

In a brief response to emailed questions, Parrott downplayed his role in connecting Risco and the contractor, saying it was simply a referral. He did not offer more details on why he would refer this specific contractor to TARC, or what services he thought she would be best suited to provide. 

Jean Porter, a spokesperson for Mayor Greg Fischer, also dismissed the concern, saying Parrott advised Fischer’s office that all he did was introduce Risco and the contractor at a “water equity task force meeting” years ago.

But the contractor told TARC investigators that Parrott was the one who initially reached out to her about an opportunity at TARC, and that she came to Louisville at his invitation. And the meeting where they all met?

According to the report, it was attended by only five people: Risco, Parrott, two MSD consultants and the woman who would become TARC’s newest contractor — and, five days later, would send a bill for $27,000.

In Cincinnati, Controversy

Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) Executive Director James "Tony" Parrott

[/media-credit] “Tony” Parrott

When Parrott was hired to run Louisville MSD in July 2015, Fischer said he was “the right leader for our city.”

Parrott had faced controversy in his last job over some residency requirements; at the time, Fischer announced he had hired a private investigator to look into the concerns, and came away confident in the decision to hire Parrott. 

But within a few months of him taking the Louisville job, an investigative series from the Cincinnati Enquirer laid out Parrott’s mismanagement of the Cincinnati Metro Sewer District’s massive budget. 

The FBI opened an investigation and the city undertook its own audit. 

Fischer’s office told WHAS at the time that they were aware of the allegations, but Parrott had been thoroughly vetted and the Mayor had full confidence in him. 

“However, the Mayor’s Office will be looking into the situation in the coming weeks,” the spokesperson said. 

One major issue raised in the investigative series and confirmed in the audit was Parrott’s over-reliance on expensive outside contractors. Taxpayers received little benefit from many of these inflated contracts, the audit found. 

Parrott awarded a contract to a former Cincinnati councilman for $294,000 that auditors could find no work product to show for it. Another contractor billed for more than 24 hours of work in a day. Contractors were paid by Cincinnati MSD to do work for a private foundation that Parrott also ran.

One article by the Enquirer focused in part on a contract with a Pittsburgh-based company. Between 2010 and Parrott’s departure in 2015, that firm was paid more than $3 million to help manage the agency’s budget, the Enquirer reported. Much of that sum came not from the actual wages of contractors, but from a “multiplier” written into the contract.

MSD agreed to pay 2.95 times as much as the contractor’s wages, with the excess going directly to the firm. Most contracts contain some multiplier, but experts interviewed by the Enquirer said, across the board, it seemed like Cincinnati MSD was significantly overpaying.

The recent TARC investigation cited these “questionable billing practices” from the contractor’s time with Cincinnati MSD as evidence that she was not suited to take on work in Louisville. 

“An examination of Contractor’s relationship with Cincinnati MSD would have revealed to even the most uninitiated a troubling relationship,” the report says. “Contractor had previously been embroiled in billing controversies while contracting for Cincinnati MSD” — contracts approved by Parrott himself. 

In 2018, after Parrott had been in Louisville for several years, the Ohio State Auditor released a report on his time at Cincinnati MSD. The audit uncovered $779,000 in improper expenses. 

The auditor did not flag the $3 million paid to the woman who went on to work for TARC in the list of improper contracts.

Parrott was deemed jointly liable for $461,594, meaning he would have to repay the city if the companies did not. In an email, Parrott said he cannot comment on the status of that restitution due to ongoing civil litigation.

In an email, Porter praised Parrott as an effective leader for MSD and echoed the Mayor’s previous statements on the issue. 

“The issues raised in his previous job were thoroughly vetted before he was hired here,” Porter said in an email. “Transparency and accountability are priorities at MSD.”

Pay From TARC, But No Work 

In December 2018, the same month Ferdinand Risco was promoted to executive director of the Transit Authority of River City, Parrott reached out to the contractor to discuss “an opportunity to provide consulting services to TARC,” she told investigators. 

The woman told investigators that Parrott invited her to Louisville from Dallas to discuss the opportunity with Risco. Investigators found evidence that an MSD contractor actually organized the meeting. 

But in January 2019, Parrott, Risco, the contractor, the MSD contractor and another consultant all met. 

Five days later, the contractor submitted her first invoice to TARC for $27,000. This was ostensibly in exchange for a “three phased study for TARC” that she submitted a proposal to perform, though internal investigators found no evidence that she actually did the work promised. 

The payment violated several TARC policies, including the requirement to seek bids from local contractors first and not provide advance payments. There also was no formal contract until about nine months into the relationship. 

The contractor billed more than $228,000 between February 2019 and Risco’s termination in February 2020. 

The contracts — and payments in the absence of contracts — were further complicated by the woman’s report to investigators that she quickly began a sexual relationship with Risco. 

“Over the course of a mere 22 days, Contractor had met with Risco, Contractor invoiced and secured $27,000.00 in taxpayer funds through a ‘no bid sole source’ contract that circumvented TARC policies and procedures, and the two had sex with each other, as Contractor…travelled at TARC’s expense,” the report wrote. 

That sexual encounter was consensual, according to the woman’s account in the report. But in April 2019, while attending a conference in Dallas with Risco, she said they were alone in his hotel room when she said he grabbed her, attempted to lift up her shirt and sodomize her without her consent. 

She told investigators about two other incidents of sexual assault in hotel rooms, one where he performed oral sex on her without her consent, and another when he got on top of her and she blacked out while he had sex with her. 

“When asked whether the approval or continuation of any or all of her contracts was conditioned upon her submission to sexual relations, Contractor stated unequivocally that she was not asked or required to have sex with Risco in exchange for any of the contracts with TARC,” the report wrote. “She explained that her fear of Risco’s explosive temper deprived her of a choice.”

The contractor’s lawyer declined comment on her behalf. 

Investigators concluded that, whatever her role was, it was Risco who, as a city employee, violated several policies by sending explicit text messages and not disclosing his sexual relationship with a contractor. 

Asked whether he knew about allegations of sexual assault by Risco, Parrott responded emphatically: “No. No. None.”

Contact Eleanor Klibanoff at eklibanoff@kycir.org.

The post Before Contractor Billed TARC For No Work, She Worked For MSD Director appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

Transit Veteran Named To Lead TARC Out Of ‘One Of The Worst Periods’ In Its History Thursday, Sep 10 2020 

'

Carrie Butler will become the new executive director of TARC. Mayor Greg Fischer made the announcement during a press conference Thursday morning.

Butler, a Louisville native, previously served as director of planning at TARC for eight years and has spent the past six years as general manager of Lexington’s public transit system. She also worked as a transportation planner for a civil engineering firm that worked with public transportation systems throughout the country.

Growing up in Louisville, she recognized the importance of TARC, Butler said.


CLICK ON TITLE TO READ FULL ARTICLE.
'

Investigation Uncovers Ex-TARC Director’s Sexual, Financial Misconduct Tuesday, Sep 8 2020 

'

A new internal report documents “one of the worst periods” in the history of Louisville’s transit authority — the 14-month tenure of executive director Ferdinand Risco. 

Risco was fired in February after allegations of sexual misconduct. But according to this report released Tuesday, his pattern of sexually harassing employees was just one aspect of his inappropriate behavior. 

He also directed at least $228,000 to a woman he was having a sexual relationship with, spent more than $63,000 on travel in one year, was rarely in the office and created a power structure specifically intended to help him get away with all of this, the report claims. 


CLICK ON TITLE TO READ FULL ARTICLE.
'

TARC Investigators For Metro Council Say Sensitivity To Victims Is Priority Tuesday, Feb 25 2020 

TARCWith multiple investigations underway into allegations of sexual misconduct by the former executive director of Louisville’s public transit agency, the lawyer hired by Metro Council said he would treat victims with sensitivity.

Speaking to the Council’s government oversight committee Tuesday, David Beyer a Louisville attorney and former FBI agent said it is important to keep information he uncovers confidential until the time comes to disclose it to the public. He said he does not want to “re-victimize” victims.

“I will be guided by that principle to be very sensitive to the people that we are speaking to,” he said. “That being said, I intend to conduct a very thorough, independent investigation to get to the bottom of what has transpired.”

Ferdinand Risco resigned as the head of TARC earlier this month after allegations that he sexually harassed at least six female employees became public. The Council authorized an investigation into his conduct and hiring last week.

Councilman Bill Hollander (D-9) encouraged Beyer to coordinate with the investigators hired by the County Attorney, who are conducting a separate independent investigation. He said it would not make sense for the two groups to interview the same people separately. A lack of coordination could cause victims to retell their stories repeatedly.

“I don’t think that’s fair to the victims, and I don’t think it’s productive,” Hollander said.

Beyer and Jonathan Ricketts, a Louisville lawyer contracted by the County Attorney’s office to represent the Council in this matter who also spoke at the meeting, said they planned to attend a meeting Wednesday with the other investigators. A representative for the County Attorney’s office did not immediately respond to a request for more details about Wednesday’s meetings.

Ricketts said legislators should let Beyer conduct his investigation independently. He said Beyer could contact him or the Council for guidance, if needed.

“What I would not want to see is an investigation that is compromised by, no offense, but you know, whatever the political whims might be at the time,” Ricketts said.

Councilwoman Barbara Sexton-Smith (D-4) specified what she hoped the Council-commissioned investigation might reveal.

“For me, defining success and the goal of this entire investigation is to find out what procedures are in place and structures in place and where it broke down because it obviously broke down, critically broke down,” she said.

If the investigation finds that the procedures for hiring and vetting high-level employees for the quasi-government agency are different than those for Louisville Metro Government as a whole, the city may be able to guide the agency to change, she said. And if they’re the same, she said they should be examined.

The hearing came the day after Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer met with the TARC board and called for actions including establishing an anonymous tip line for employees and reviewing the agency’s finances. Board chair Mary Morrow said in a statement that TARC would adopt those recommendations and consider additional measures.

 

Metro Council Authorizes Investigation Into TARC Sexual Harassment Allegations Thursday, Feb 20 2020 

The Louisville Metro Council will take steps to investigate the allegations of sexual harassment by current and former employees of the Transit Authority of River City against Ferdinand Risco Jr, who resigned as executive director of the agency last week.

The resolutions unanimously approved by Metro Council on Thursday will initiate the legislative body’s investigation into the alleged incidents, and will allow it to retain attorney David Beyer to conduct an outside investigation.

The Jefferson County Attorney has retained law firm Dinsmore & Shohl to perform an outside investigation after being alerted to the issue by the mayor’s office in late January, Mayor Greg Fischer’s spokeswoman Jean Porter said.

Risco allegedly harassed at least six women who worked at TARC through inappropriate in-personal interactions, as well as lewd text and picture messages, and tied professional opportunities to their receptiveness. He first joined the agency in 2017 after working at Atlanta’s public transit agency.

Fischer appointed him executive director last April following the retirement of Barry Barker the previous November. Risco served as interim executive director before taking the role permanently.

Council members including President David James (D-6) and Anthony Piagentini (R-19), who is vice chair of the government oversight committee, called for a full investigation when the allegations became public last week.

At Thursday’s meeting, Piagentini lamented that the past could not be erased for the women, Metro employees, who were allegedly victimized by Risco.

“Part of that victimization is a breakdown of process. It is incumbent upon us to understand the process and fix the process so this is eliminated and this never happens again within this Metro government,” he said.

State law gives Council the authority to investigate officials appointed by the mayor.

The resolution indicates council members will seek to determine TARC’s current processes for protecting employees from sexual harassment and intimidation and to clarify how and why Risco was appointed executive director.

The Council’s Government Oversight and Audit Committee will oversee the investigation, whose results could lead to legislative action and recommendations for changes at TARC. The investigation could open as early as next week when the committee meets.

Keisha Dorsey (D-3) said she hoped what Council learns from the investigation will help prevent similar incidents in the future.

“The recommendations or the lessons learned coming out of this investigation really need to be applied across all government agencies and all quasi agencies so that we use this as a springboard,” she said.

Last Thursday, Fischer’s office named two women, Laura Douglas and Margaret Handmaker, to serve as interim executive directors of TARC.

TARC Executive Director Resigns Following Allegations Of Misconduct Wednesday, Feb 12 2020 

Transit Authority of River City (TARC) Executive Director Ferdinand L. Risco Jr.This story has been updated.

Ferdinand Risco Jr. is out as executive director of TARC, the city’s public transit agency, a day after a report alleging that he sexually harassed current and former employees.

Mayor Greg Fischer announced Wednesday morning that he had accepted Risco’s resignation. He said an interim director would be named soon, and that the city would seek a permanent replacement.

“A quality public transit system is critical to our city, and we are committed to a smooth transition,” Fischer said in an emailed statement.

Fischer named Risco executive director of TARC last April. Risco had been with the agency since 2017.

On Tuesday, WAVE 3 reported several former and current employees alleged Risco subjected them to sexual harassment. The report said the employees claimed he harassed them through touching, inappropriate text messages and lewd photos.

Louisville attorney Thomas Clay said he met with the women over the weekend. He said the women feared retribution for speaking out about Risco’s unwanted advances.

“I think there was concern that if their allegations were made known that there could be repercussions in their employment,” he said. He declined to elaborate, citing attorney-client privilege.

Clay said when he first met with the group, their main concern was Risco’s status as head of TARC. With that no longer the case, Clay said it’s uncertain whether his clients will pursue a lawsuit.

Risco did not respond to emails or social media messages seeking response to the allegations.

Metro Council president David James said he believes a civil action may take place. But he said the Council’s Government Oversight and Audit Committee must do its own investigation.

“It’s still shocking to me. I’m sorry that our employees at TARC had to suffer through that,” he said. “I’m interested in learning what went wrong and how it went wrong.”

He said he also wants to know how long the misconduct went on. 

“We have to find out if there were any other people involved in upper management at TARC. We have to find out if anybody participated in any cover up any upper management at TARC. We have to find out what the board of directors of TARC knew about it,” he said.

James said he had seen evidence of misconduct, including some of the illicit photos. He said they made him feel “shocked” and “dismayed.”

The chair of the TARC board, Mary Morrow, said the system remains focused on providing high-quality and reliable service.

“We are working to quickly identify an interim director to work with our wonderful, dedicated team until a permanent director is named. And we plan a national search for a new director who can help TARC continue its trajectory as a leader in the transit industry,” Morrow said in a statement.

Earlier on Tuesday, Risco testified at Metro Council about recent issues with its TARC 3 service, which is for passengers with intellectual and physical disabilities. The agency and a subcontractor were in a contract dispute that led drivers to strike, stranding some passengers.

Reporter Eleanor Klibanoff contributed to this story.

TARC Will Use $17 Million Federal Grant To Replace Buses From The Late 90s Sunday, Dec 1 2019 

Louisville’s public transit system could soon replace some of its oldest and least efficient buses with the award of a $17.3 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration.

The Transit Authority of River City is one of seven local transit systems across the country to receive a grant of that size, the largest awarded, in this round of the FTA’s Bus and Bus Facilities Projects.

LaPrecious Brewer, TARC’s communications coordinator, said the agency will use the funding to take more than three dozen 1998 model buses off the road.

“Some of them have over 800,000 miles,” she said. “It’ll help us to improve our efficiency.”

Brewer said TARC is still determining what types of buses it will purchase. Its 227-bus fleet is made up of mostly diesel buses. It has 35 hybrid and 15 electric buses, the latter of which are used for free downtown circulator routes. She said that program, called LouLift, probably would not be expanded.

Electric buses are the most expensive, while diesel are the least, she said. The range is about $500,000 to close to $1 million per bus.

The older buses require more maintenance, are less fuel-efficient and produce more emissions, so replacing them could provide a cost savings for TARC, Brewer said.

TARC’s budget is under pressure as it strives to maintain service levels amid declining revenue and ridership.

According to its budget for the fiscal year 2019, TARC budgeted nearly $30 million of federal funding for its fiscal year 2019 capital budgets. Its total capital budget was more than $37 million.

Brewer said federal funding makes up about 15 percent of TARC’s overall revenue.

“Any funding opportunity that we get makes a huge difference,” she said. “Federal funding is is very important.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, whose husband Mitch McConnell represents Kentucky in the Senate, said in a press release that buses are how millions of Americans access work, healthcare and other vital services.

Another TARC spokesman, Jeremy Priddy, said the agency received slightly less than it asked for it its grant application. He said TARC does not have a relationship with Chao.

In Louisville, commuting by bus can add hours of travel time compared to driving a car. TARC says it has more than 41,000 daily riders.

Next Page »