- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A top manager at Metro created a $140,000-a-year job for a friend whose California-based company had received stimulus funds and contracts from the transit agency — including one for $50,000 that paid for the design of a single banner hanging in Metro’s downtown headquarters.

When a watchful employee repeatedly attempted to warn Metro’s general manager and other officials of irregularities with the arrangement, the whistleblower — not the supervisor who hired the man — was fired, according to an internal report by the transit agency’s Office of Inspector General.

Sara P. Wilson, then assistant general manager in Metro’s communications department, hired Marc M. Caposino, with whom she had worked at San Francisco’s transit system, in December 2009 after Mr. Caposino fell deeply into debt, the report said. Metro paid Mr. Caposino a $140,000 annual salary, a $10,000 signing bonus and $20,000 in relocation money in a move that was approved by General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. and Chief of Staff Shiva Pant despite multiple red flags.

Mr. Caposino was hired amid financial troubles for Metro that prompted a “reduction in force” and weeks after Mr. Caposino filed for bankruptcy. Just before taking the job, Mr. Caposino listed an annual income of $36,000 in public court documents, which also said his advertising company was worthless.

Catoe and Pant approved the hiring solely based upon [Ms. Wilson‘s] recommendation and notwithstanding some negative information Catoe received. This personnel action was done against the background of [reductions in force] and projected large deficits,” according to the internal report, which was obtained by The Washington Times through an open-records request. The report added that the new hire’s workload was made up largely of responsibilities shifted from existing employees.

The report also said Mr. Caposino falsely listed a previous salary of $150,000 on his application, which no one at Metro verified. The hiring process from interview to acceptance took place within a span of four days, Mr. Caposino did not fill out an application until after he had accepted the job, and the bonus was paid even though the applicant had no other employment offers.

“Both Catoe and Pant thought that the signing bonus was unusual … but did nothing about it,” the report said.

A profile of Mr. Caposino posted on the social networking site LinkedIn claims that Mr. Catoe personally asked him to come work for Metro.

Mr. Caposino, whose name was redacted from the report but whose identity was widely known within Metro, did not return calls for comment.

Ms. Wilson’s name also was redacted from the report. Reached for comment, she said she disagreed with the inspector general’s findings and referred a reporter to a copy of a statement she filed with the inspector general in response to the report. The response notes that Mr. Caposino at the time he was hired had been helping to support his parents and that his ideas still could be used someday.

Ms. Wilson and Mr. Caposino have since left Metro, but it was not clear from the inspector general’s report the terms under which they departed.

A source with knowledge of the activities in the report, but who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of lack of authority to discuss the matter, said Ms. Wilson left Metro after Mr. Catoe announced his resignation as general manager in January 2010 and was replaced by Richard Sarles.

Mr. Caposino was briefly promoted to fill the void until Mr. Sarles brought in his own team. He now works as a spokesman for the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

The inspector general’s report also points out contracting irregularities concerning Mr. Caposino prior to his hiring at Metro. It said the transit agency paid $68,000 for contracting work to a company in which Mr. Caposino held a 50 percent stake.

The company, Fresh Public, provided little to show for the money, which included $18,000 in funds from the 2009 federal stimulus. According to the report, that money paid for one presentation for a project that never materialized.

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