Action News Jax has answers about just how much time the city’s top transit executive spends on the job.
Investigator Emily Turner has been digging into the Jacksonville Transportation Authority for months. One of our requests included CEO Nat Ford’s badge swipes into his office. According to its own internal documents, JTA legal counsel tried not to give that to us, but thanks to Florida’s public records law, Action News Jax prevailed.
We requested badge access data for Ford’s office for the first six months of the year. It paints a very clear picture of a man who’s often missing in action, at least on the local level. JTA’s own records show he’s traveling just as much as he’s at the office.
There are 125 working days inside the six-month time frame we requested, but Mr. Ford’s badge only shows up in 65 of them.
Public records show he was traveling on at least six of those days, only leaving 59 for a full day at the office.
The rest of the calendar is almost entirely filled with travel. JTA records show Ford was out of town on taxpayer-funded trips 59 days in that same time period, including a 14-day trip to Spain and a five-day stay in Hawaii.
Ford declined our request for an interview weeks ago. So we tracked him down at a press conference and asked, “do you feel like you can do a good job when you are gone so frequently?”
He didn’t directly answer the question, but eventually said, “I’m a high-energy individual. So, in addition to the travel and the I’d say, the national associations I’m leading, I’m sitting at the table with those decision makers and influencers that are making policy decisions around transportation here locally.”
That’s a job that comes with an annual compensation of $626,457.29 a year and with a travel tab of at least $ 40,970.41 so far this year.
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Action News Jax asked each member of the JTA board for an interview regarding their oversight of Mr. Ford and his travel and spending. Last Thursday, JTA agreed to a one-board member interview initially, but hours before we were set to sit down with former chair, Ari Jolly, the agency canceled with no explanation and no future rescheduled date.