The Sound Transit Board denied CEO Peter Rogoff a salary bonus following reports from employees alleging he engaged in inappropriate workplace behavior, during a special meeting held Thursday.
Details of the allegations remain murky, but Jenny Durkan, Mayor of Seattle and ST Board member, said the allegations “raised the issue of racial bias and insensitivity.”
After a long executive session, a motion was introduced and approved by the Board requiring Rogoff to complete a “Leadership Development Plan.”
“It will include improving skills in listening, self-awareness and relationship-building inside and outside the organization,” said John Marchione, Vice Chair of ST’s board and Mayor of Redmond.
Not all board members were supportive of the motion. Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Seattle Councilmember Rob Johnson voted against the proposal.
“I think the facts that we have been briefed on, and the conclusion reached by our council, demonstrate Sound Transit is not felt to be a safe workplace for all employees. They don’t feel they can act without repercussions, and there are many who feel their work is not valued,” Durkan said. “I am also concerned that the statements that were alleged to have been made by the CEO and [his] actions raised the issue of racial bias and insensitivity, as well as other workplace harassment issues.”
Johnson, also a no vote, wanted more information regarding the leadership development plan.
A records request by Crosscut details some of the allegations.
In a statement, Rogoff denied some of the accusations. “As I have mentioned before, some of the assertions on the list reflect the realities of the adjustment period I was going through when I first arrived at the agency. Other entries on this document I believe to be misquoted, misunderstood, mischaracterized or false. I don’t yell at people. I don’t disparage small city mayors and I don’t shove furniture to make a point.”
Marchione, who introduced the motion, began by praising Rogoff for his 2017 accomplishments, including efforts to meet aggressive timelines and increase internal collaboration across the agency’s departments.
He characterized the allegations as “inappropriate language, and actions and demeanor that made employees uncomfortable.”
Marchione said an outside consultant was used to ensure the reports were dealt with and resolved appropriately.
Marchione said weighing Rogoff’s management and accomplishments together, the Board decided not to grant a bonus to Rogoff for 2017. Instead, the Board is ordering Rogoff to complete a leadership development plan, “moving away from relying on a position of power to accomplish agency objectives.” Three Board members will oversee the plan and meet monthly with Rogoff.
“I feel these actions are appropriate given all the data in front of us and, if followed, we will have improved management by the CEO,” Marchione said.
In 2018, Rogoff received a 5% annual inflation increase, bringing his annual salary to $328,545. His contract is set to expire January 31, 2019.
When Rogoff applied for the CEO position, Dow Constantine, King County Executive and ST board member, said he cautioned Rogoff that he was going to have “to modify his manner and understand the local culture if he was going to be successful.”
“I believe that he has made significant progress in becoming a better manager of people whose primary point of reference is the Northwest way of doing things,” Constantine said. “Clearly, there is progress to be made.”
In his statement, Rogoff acknowledged he had important lessons to learn when he began working at Sound Transit.
“My workplace demeanor in early 2016 was the wrong approach. I take full responsibility for it. I apologize to the Board for it today just as I apologized for it during my 2016 performance review,” Rogoff said.
“Just as Sound Transit is an agency that strives for continuous improvement, I too seek to continually improve my performance based on new inputs and challenges. As such, I embrace the Board’s latest direction and will continue to work with staff and Board Members to become an even more effective leader.”