Interim RTA CEO resigns over new job

Shawn D. Lewis
The Detroit News
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Detroit — The interim CEO of the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan has submitted her resignation, transit officials announced Thursday.

Tiffany Gunter’s departure is effective Jan. 2. According to RTA board chairman Paul Hillegonds, Gunter has been offered and accepted another position. That job was not immediately disclosed.

“That’s her call and I’m not sure she’s saying publicly,” Hillegonds said of Gunter’s new job. “I can say she will be staying in the region and she has a good offer.”

Gunter did not immediately respond to a voicemail and email.

Carmine Palombo, deputy director of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, will be on loan to the RTA beginning in January until a permanent CEO is hired, Hillegonds said.

“While we are saddened by the news that Tiffany will be leaving us in January 2018, we are tremendously proud of what she has accomplished while leading the RTA,” he said in a statement. “Tiffany has done a stellar job during a very difficult period.”

Gunter, who had previously been the RTA’s chief operating officer and deputy CEO, took over earlier this year amid questions over the transit authority’s future. The RTA narrowly lost a vote late last year on a $4.6 billion millage to expand transit service across Metro Detroit, then ousted CEO Michael Ford in February after questions arose about his job expenses.

But the RTA’s financial picture appears to be OK, according to Hillegonds.

“We’re solvent, and we have identified revenue resources to get through 2018 and part of 2019,” he said. “If we had to wait until 2020 to go to the voters, we would have to reach an agreement with local providers in tapping some state funding they receive to operate local bus service.”

He said the good news is that “regional officerholders are meeting to discuss the master plan and possible changes in it with the goal of reaching a consensus of how to move forward with their support.”

“Talks are ongoing, and we believe consensus is possible,” he said. “With the last election, there was ambivalence from county executives about our plan, and we need them fully on board to go back to the voters.”

Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Hillegonds told The Detroit News that the

Hillegonds described Gunter as a “true and dedicated leader for the RTA.”

“The board had high confidence in her ability, and she did not let us down,” he said. “We are very thankful for what she was able to accomplish in a very short time."

According to the RTA, Gunter secured contracts for all internal and external administrative and planning functions. She also managed planning projects, balanced the budget, assisted in creating policies for the board to review and consider, hired and managed the administrative team, and worked closely with the transit providers as well as senior political leadership in the region.

In a statement, Gunter expressed her feelings about serving the RTA’s board.

“It has been an absolute pleasure to serve the RTA Board since we began this journey, and I am so proud of all that we have accomplished together,” she said. “I want to take this opportunity to thank the board and all the stakeholders for being unwavering in their support of this organization and of my leadership. I will continue to be an advocate for improved transit and know that this important work will continue.”

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