Friday, November 30, 2001

Metro Assistant General Manager Gail Charles yesterday announced her resignation as head of the transit authority’s procurement and personnel division.

Miss Charles, whose resignation becomes effective Dec. 20, joined Metro in 1998 and becomes the second official to leave the authority this month. Former Chief Engineer Charles L. Stanford stepped down after enduring criticism about system failures in new rail cars and faulty escalator repairs during his 18-month tenure.

Metro spokesman Ray Feldmann said Miss Charles has accepted a job as deputy general manager for finance and administration at the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority. Metro workers said MARTA has about half the employees of Metro and has a subway system with only two rail lines, compared with Metro’s five lines.

“Apparently she has relative or family down there. She was looking to get down farther south,” Mr. Feldmann said of Miss Charles’ reasons for leaving.

He said Miss Charles and Mr. Stanford’s departures will not affect operations.

“We will be naming an acting or interim [replacement] in the next couple of days,” Mr. Feldmann said. “They are in completely different areas.”

Miss Charles was instrumental in hiring part-time consultant Wayman H. “Ray” Lytle in 1998 via a sole-source contract that was originated by Metro Assistant General Manager Panagiotis P. “Takis” Salpeas. Mr. Lytle and Mr. Salpeas had worked together at the Bay Area Rapid Transit system in San Francisco.

Mr. Lytle’s noncompetitive, $100,000 contract grew to more than $333,065 over 14 months without the Metro board’s approval. Miss Charles said Mr. Lytle’s service was “essential” although Metro auditors objected to his high hourly fees, which they said were not justified.

The Federal Transit Administration and the Department of Transportation criticized Metro for hiring Mr. Lytle, and Metro eliminated the job of a top procurement official and changed its procurement policies to prevent future incidents.

Mr. Lytle was fired after inquiries by The Washington Times.

In July, the Metro board began investigating employee complaints of harassment and discrimination after Mr. Salpeas was named in a discrimination lawsuit. The Metro board settled out of court a sexual harassment claim by an employee against Mr. Salpeas.

Miss Charles oversaw the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Metro personnel department at the time.

Board Chairman Decatur W. Trotter yesterday said the board is continuing to investigate employee complaints at Metro, adding that changes still must be made.

He said he could not criticize Miss Charles.

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