Updated 8:23 p.m.
The Regional Transportation District’s board voted on Tuesday to keep retiring General Manager and CEO Dave Genova on through Jan. 20, 2020.
Genova announced his retirement late last month. He earns about $300,000 a year in the position he took over in March of 2016.
RTD opened a number of rail lines under Genova’s tenure, including the popular A Line to Denver International Airport. But the agency has also faced significant struggles in recent months, from budget problems to an ongoing drama over whether to sublease a downtown Denver plot for use by a museum.
The most serious issue, though, is one that’s been building for years: The agency’s inability to hire and retain drivers, which has resulted in a proposal to temporarily cut service.
The board also voted 8-7 to open the hiring process for the interim general manager to outside candidates. Members in support argued that RTD needed to signal that the agency was serious about its desire to change itself. Board member Lynn Guissinger specifically mentioned state legislators who could exercise more oversight of RTD.
“We made a commitment to our communities to lead this agency. And this agency is in crisis,” said board member Angie Rivera-Malpiede.
But other board members argued that hiring an outside candidate on a temporary basis could slow down the hiring process for Genova’s permanent replacement. It took the board nine months to choose Genova in 2015, and several more months to negotiate his contract.
Board member Shontel Lewis said she wants to see an outside candidate in the top job -- but not in the short term. RTD needs consistency, she said, citing conversations she’d had with constituents who feel they can no longer rely on the agency’s services.
“We did not make a commitment to lead this agency into dysfunction,” Lewis said.
Board members who voted in favor of the motion said it was not because of any discontent with the performance of senior staff. But in recent comments and meetings, board members expressed their displeasure with Genova and some of his lieutenants. They pointed to specific instances where they felt out of the loop, including the decision to sublease land to the Medal of Honor Museum and delays on the N Line construction.
Written, anonymous comments in a recent board survey of Genova’s performance showed similar fissures between board and staff.
“I think Dave is probably aware of the unrest from our stakeholders regarding delivery delays and service cut-backs but I'm not sure members of [the senior leadership team] understand the growing magnitudes of these situations,” one board member wrote. “The frequently common pushback from SLT members is frustrating. I sometimes wonder if some members of SLT are a bit insulated from what we are dealing with in our communities.”
The board also on Tuesday discussed the mechanics of how it will choose Genova’s permanent replacement. Board chair Doug Tisdale said the process could take more than a year.
“It’s the most important job this board has, period,” Tisdale said.