- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2012

A top official at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, in response to a Washington Times investigation that found a lack of accountability and racism at the transit agency, has issued a memo to all rail employees quoting Whitney Houston and encouraging employees to band together against the outside world.

“Family pulls together when they perceive that they are being attacked from the outside,” wrote Hercules Ballard, managing director of rail transportation. “We will use our pride as a shield against any attack they wage against us.”

(Click here to read the full memo)

Mr. Ballard goes on to say that The Times should have written that Metro employees are “incredible, impressive, wondrous, stupendous or amazing,” and that the agency kept its underground stations open during 2009 snowstorms (it closed its above-ground ones). He also noted that “not one station closed nor did a single train stopped [sic] running” during last summer’s earthquake.

The Times’ three-part series found that human resources practices had maintenance workers making nearly $200,000 a year, that people with criminal records were inexplicably promoted while others languished, that Metro’s largest job categories were 97 percent black, that its police force conducts little enforcement of its basic rules, and that, according to specialists, policies promoting secrecy violated a federal whistle-blowers law.

In public and internal correspondence, Metro has declined to address any of the facts in the series.

“Well partner, that is not going to work this time, we’re too smart for that,” Mr. Ballard wrote.

Metro took a year to respond to an open-records request for the agency’s latest pay information, and then its general manager dismissed the stories as “relying on outdated data.”

There were signs of an unpublicized reaction to the series inside Metro. Three weeks after the stories ran, a new page on “diversity” was added to Metro’s website, and a job posting for a newly created “director of talent management” position, with responsibilities corresponding with the problems identified in the series, was advertised.

But in a letter to his thousands of employees, which Mr. Ballard described as an “apology for this article,” he instead cited Ms. Houston, the singer who was found dead in a bathtub in February of complications from drug use.

“Whitney Houston said in one of her interviews, ‘We should not focus on other people’s failures but celebrate their successes,’” he wrote.

The letter was obtained by the blog UnsuckDCMetro.

• Luke Rosiak can be reached at lrosiak@washingtontimes.com.

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