Hillsborough transit employee also secretly worked for a New Orleans agency

Hillsborough transit employee also secretly worked for a New Orleans agency

A senior employee at Hillsborough County’s transit agency has been working a second full-time job for a Louisiana transit agency since April, according to public records. Officials with both agencies told the Tampa Bay Times that they didn’t know she had two jobs.

Teri Wright was hired by the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority as chief customer experience officer on Feb. 1 last year, with an annual starting salary of $200,271.75.

She had previously worked at the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority as director of customer experience from August 2017 until leaving Feb. 5, 2021.

But, records show, Wright began working for the New Orleans agency again 14 months after her start date with HART, as the agency’s senior director of communications. Her starting salary was $155,000, according to Darwyn B. Anderson, the agency’s chief human resources officer. The agency is “addressing this matter according to policy,” he said.

Wright did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

HART chief executive officer Adelee Le Grand said she was unaware of Wright’s dual employment, calling the news “very unfortunate.” She added: “When someone breaks the rules it is important to move on without them.”

Le Grand said Wright reported directly to her, and she was a respected member of staff. “I thought she was really good at her role,” Le Grand told The Times.

Wright’s last day at the agency was last Monday, Le Grand said, adding that her departure was “mutually agreed upon.” Wright was the fourth-highest-paid HART employee, according to agency records.

The HART employee handbook requires that “its employees’ first employment-related allegiance” lies with them. New Orleans requires similar loyalty: full-time employees must “consider the RTA employment responsibilities as primary,” according to policy documents reviewed by The Times.

An RTA employee is also required to obtain approval from their department head before taking on another job. Wright did not seek this approval, according to the agency.

HART employees seeking secondary employment must complete an Outside Employment Request Form and obtain initial approval from their supervisor and the director of human resources, with final approval by the equal employment opportunity officer, according to the employee handbook. It is unclear if Wright completed these requests.

Hillsborough’s transit agency has long teetered on the edge of financial stability. At a recent board meeting, following the failure of a proposed sales tax which would have generated a steady revenue stream for the agency, Le Grand said her team would be “very aggressive at finding ways to increase revenue and be more efficient with the dollars that we already have.”

She said the agency will try to work more closely with partners, such as the county’s transportation planning organization and the Florida Department of Transportation, and double down on efforts to find additional funding opportunities to keep the agency afloat. “The question is for all of us: How are we going to work collectively to find opportunities to generate revenue?”

Wright was not the only high-ranking employee to leave HART last week. In a budget-tightening effort, the agency eliminated a handful of positions, including four department directors.

Before joining HART, Le Grand served as a vice president of Transdev North America, a public transit contracting firm, which had the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority as a client. Through this contract work, Le Grand was the chief strategy officer in service to the New Orleans agency from 2016 to 2019. She said she did not work with Wright in this role.