An effort to find the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority's next executive director crept forward Tuesday, with the board that governs that agency agreeing to seek bids from search firms to identify candidates.
It has been almost three months since former Director Greg Cook submitted a resignation that by all indications was forced, after only six months on the job.
The RTA's executive director does not actually run the city's transit system, which is operated by a private management company. Instead, the executive director monitors that firm's actions on behalf of the RTA board.
Meanwhile, officials announced that Jared Munster, director of the city’s Department of Safety and Permits, will also take on the job of reporting to Mayor Mitch Landrieu on the RTA’s progress until Landrieu's term ends in May.
Munster’s new duties come after Landrieu’s former chief administrative officer, Jeff Hebert, resigned last week for a job with the Water Institute of the Gulf. Hebert had been monitoring the RTA for the mayor.
But Munster will be expected to take on an even heavier load than did Hebert, given the board’s need for help with implementing a strategic plan members approved Tuesday, said Sharonda Williams, the RTA board chairwoman.
Landrieu, who approved Munster’s appointment, “understand(s) that we may also have increased requests and needs from the city liaison for this purpose, and that this is an all-hands-on-deck type of situation,” Williams said.
Officials have said little about what led to Cook’s resignation, which was particularly embarrassing for Landrieu, who was personally involved in Cook’s hiring.
Cook has said that the board didn’t like his management style, while Landrieu’s office has cast the departure as an example of a diligent board holding its staff accountable, though for what was not clear.
There were problems with Cook’s hiring from the start, with some members of a search committee tasked with vetting him apparently unaware of incidents in his past including a termination and controversy about his use of another public transit agency’s credit card.
Other issues dogged the selection process, with members of the search committee holding interviews with prospective candidates by phone or in small groups, so as to dodge requirements under the state’s open meetings law.
The board did, however, vote to hire Cook in a public meeting.
This time around, the board is engaging an executive search firm, a course it started to take took two years ago but didn't follow through with.
The strategic plan Munster will be tasked with overseeing, at least for a few months, outlines a host of goals for the RTA over the next 20 years.
The Landrieu administration has indicated that it would like Cook's successor to be installed before the mayor leaves office.