61ºF

RTA fires CEO Michael Ford after careless spending decisions

String of careless spending decisions discovered on Ford's expense account

DETROIT – The CEO of the RTA was fired Thursday after a string of careless spending decisions was discovered on his expense account.

The Regional Transit Authority board made the decision to fire Michael Ford at a Thursday afternoon meeting.

Investigation showed close to $20,000 in questionable spending was found on Ford's expense account. Those are taxpayer dollars.

Ford paid money back when it became clear he wasn't entitled to many of the expenses he put in for. Now he's looking for a new job after the board decided it was time to move on.

It took three meetings full of executive sessions to come to the conclusion. Ford was terminated without cause and negotiated a settlement agreement which, for all intents and purposes, pays him his whole contract, which expires in October.

He'll receive $118,000 in pay and get paid for vacation days. The RTA will also pay 80 percent of his health benefits, which will net Ford $168,000 in all.

RTA chairman Paul Hillegonds used a transportation metaphor to explain what went wrong.

"We really looked hard at this, and I truly believe the errors were committed when we were building the plane as we were flying in," Hillegonds said.

The aircraft crash landed when Ford submitted expense reports for mileage, cellphones and healthcare and received too much money.

"I think it really reflects honest misunderstandings and not intentional wrongdoing," Hillegonds said.

"These were mistakes," Ford said. "Once they were brought to my attention, I made full restitution. We lost millage, and obviously when you lose, there are issues going forward, so there's a new opportunity. I think people want to refocus and figure out where we go from here.


About the Authors: