- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 2, 2000

Panagiotis P. "Takis" Salpeas, the Metro official at the center of an investigation of the hiring of a high-priced consultant, is known as a tough manager who cares more about schedules than costs, sources in rail construction say.
"I can't believe some of the [consulting] claims he has paid. When a contractor is behind, he pays them to accelerate the work," said a source who is working on Metro projects. "What he should be doing is holding their feet to the fire."
A Metro employee who works with Mr. Salpeas, the transit authority's assistant general manager for transit development, said Mr. Salpeas appears to be more concerned about satisfying the contractors than making sure Metro gets value for its work.
"Everything is rush, rush, rush with him," said a Metro employee. "It doesn't matter if it is done right.
"If he wants a mod [contract modification to increase payments to contractor], he wants it right now and it doesn't seem to matter if it is justified," said the employee.
Mike Healy, spokesman for the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in the San Francisco area, said Mr. Salpeas had a "reputation for being a tough manager," he said.
Mr. Salpeas, 49, is in Greece on personal business and could not be reached for comment, Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said.
Metro's inspector general is investigating Mr. Salpeas' hiring of consultant Wayman H. "Ray" Lytle under a $100,000, noncompetitive contract that grew in value to $333,065 over the objections of auditors and without the Metro board's knowledge.
In addition, the full Metro board of directors is scheduled to meet today to discuss the hiring of 108 consultants at a cost of $25 million. The consultants report to Mr. Salpeas.
Metro General Manager Richard White last year hired the consultants, who include a $110,000-a-year clerk and $350,000-a-year engineers, to do much the same work as transit authority employees but at two to three times the cost.
Moreover, the consultants have been hired while Metro has laid off about 100 employees because the transit authority did not have enough work for them to do.
Metro Board Chairman Gladys Mack said the board approved hiring the consultants. But documents show that Mr. Salpeas originated the Sept. 8 resolution that created a consortium of consultants that Metro employees say is under his control.
"He has created another department that only he controls," said a Metro employee.
The board-approved resolution, which estimates the cost of the consortium at $37.31 million a year, notes that Mr. Salpeas is responsible for "coordination, administration, management and evaluation" of the consultants.
The consortium's head consultant is James Palmer, who was Mr. Salpeas' boss at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (Septa), a Metro spokesman said.
Mr. Palmer works for Daniel, Mann, Johnson and Mendenhall and costs Metro $350,000 a year.
Mr. White, who earns $175,000 a year as Metro's top manager, said the consortium was created to put all of the consultants under one roof and to save money.
Consulting firms in the consortium include Daniel, Mann; Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas Inc.; Booz Allen & Hamilton; Ratheon Infrastructures Inc. and General Engineering Consulting Services; and Batelle.
Before the consortium was formed, just two of the firms were hired only when needed. But the consortium has hired them full time, allowing the companies to bill Metro for "all eligible and authorized costs," documents show.
BART spokesman Mr. Healy said Mr. Salpeas was hired for work at the California transit agency by former BART General Manager Frank Wilson, who was succeeded by Mr. White in 1994.
Mr. White left BART and was hired by Metro in August 1996 to reform the transit authority after the fatal subway crash at the Shady Grove station.
"I think Takis was probably the right guy for the right time for that [BART] project," Mr. Healy said. "I think he helped develop the strong community relations. I'd say he was a principal cheerleader for that project."
The airport expansion faced costly delays from the beginning, before Mr. Salpeas joined the project.
While at BART in the early to mid-1990s, Mr. Salpeas worked with a consortium of consultants that the transit authority had used for the last decade.
Unlike Metro, BART has relied upon outside engineers to plan and construct its subway system. Metro's engineering staff has been mainly in-house.
Since Mr. Salpeas was hired at Metro in September 1998, almost 100 Metro construction employees including engineers and inspectors have been laid off or farmed out to other jobs.
Although the Metro employees had helped build the subway system over the last 25 years, Mr. White said they did not have the consultants' expertise for repairing and rebuilding the system.
While working with BART's consortium, Mr. Salpeas began working with Hanan Kievett, lead architect on the airport extension project. Mr. Kievett is a consultant for Parsons Brinckerhoff.
Mr. Salpeas also began working with Mr. Lytle, a retired federal government official who was hired by BART to develop design-build contracts at a total cost of $96,000 over three years. Mr. Lytle's Metro contract for doing nearly the same work would have paid him more than $333,000 a year.
Mr. White ended the Lytle contract in January after The Washington Times inquired about it.
Mr. Kievett, who earns more than $349,000 a year as a Metro consultant, serves as an assistant to Mr. Salpeas, who makes $141,000 a year as a Metro manager.

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