1.14.2010

John Catoe unexpectedly resigns as Metro General Manager

I was in the middle of finishing my write-up of last night's blogger roundtable when I received an email from Ron Holzer at WMATA announcing Catoe's resignation. The news broke about 30 minutes ago, it appears first at the Washington Post. According to the Post:

Events of the last six months have created an unhealthy distraction, says General Manager John B. Catoe Jr.

Says there was no pressure from the board to do this. He decided about a week ago.

Board didn't know this was coming. Convened closed session to hear from him. Mood in the meeting was somber. Board members were not eager to accept his resignation, but this apparently as not negotiable.

Catoe held a brief press conference in the middle of the board room. He seemed very emotional but under control. Asked about his achievements, he talked about Metro's performance during the inauguration and the opening of Nationals Park. People had questioned whether Metro could handle those crowds,,but it did he noted. He expxressed great pride in the organization.
I was in the middle of writing a post praising Catoe's candor when discussing difficult topics related to the Metro system. As my readers know, I have been calling for change at the top levels of WMATA since the deadly 6/22 crash.

There was certainly no indication last night that this move was coming. Catoe seemed engaged and willing to hear criticism. It was obvious that he had taken to heart many of these concerns, and that he was aware that the system was not living up to it's potential. However, absolutely no one expected that he would resign.

It is true that Catoe had remained dogged by continuing concerns about safety, both on Metrorail and Metrobus. Last month Metro announced a shake-up in the safety department, and just last night Catoe told us that he had made it clear to his superintendents and assistant superintendents that safety failures would be grounds for immediate dismissal. He even acknowledged that some people felt that he should be held to that standard.

The ever-present cynic in me has to wonder what prompted this decision. It seems unlikely there was pressure from the Metro Board of Directors, as they recently approved an extension of his contract. Will the NTSB report about the 6/22 crash indicate there was a failure at the top level to assure safety? Or did the criticism of Catoe reach such a level that he simply did not feel it worthwhile to continue? Perhaps these details will be forthcoming, we will have to see.

In any event, this move comes 206 days after the 6/22 crash, and marks the end of the Catoe Watch on this web site.

6 comments:

  1. On the one hand, it is hard to be disappointed when the figurehead of an institution that is rife with management problems resigns.

    On the other hand, the significance is eclipsed and humbled by the roundtable he hosted, offering his most vocal critics a rare opportunity to talk openly, to put all those questions to him in a completely candid setting. In my book, this is a gesture that gives him huge credibility.

    It is unfortunate that this offering he made is inextricably tied to his resignation. How much more faith would we have in those who lead our government and important organizations like WMATA if these kinds of things were commonplace? I mean, even the "real" media can't get the time of day out of Mayor Fenty. Imagine if Fenty did something like this. It would take me ten minutes just to find my jaw, much less pick it up off the floor.

    The media is changing. More and more, people get their information and form opinions from the second tier media: you, and the others who sat at that table. Catoe acknowledged this and, finally, embraced it. It is a sign of progress, of respect for the community, of transparency, and of a true desire to listen and to solve problems.

    I wonder if his successor will do the same.

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  2. That's exactly what I was in the middle of writing up when I heard that he had submitted his resignation. I was impressed by the roundtable, and the fact that he was willing to have such a discussion with people who often had little faith in his management.

    For once, it seemed that Catoe understood and realized the uphill battle facing WMATA. He didn't sugarcoat things, as he often tended to do before the mainstream media. It's unfortunate that this sort of candor really only came out once he had decided he was leaving...

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  3. Maybe this sort of candor came out because he is leaving. But what does they say about the board that even we he was offering to leave they still wanted him to stay. Why do they want him to stay? Maybe because its a scapegoat for everyone, and refused to be that person.

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  4. Catoe decided about a week ago so he can get a pension in 2010 dollars. All gvt scum do this.

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  5. STROUP STROUP STROUP!!!

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/samer/4272735379/in/set-72157623082018465/

    First he killed this blog. Then he took down Catoe.

    Can he be stopped?

    ReplyDelete
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