- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 21, 2015

BOSTON (AP) - The chairman and members of the board of directors of the Massachusetts transportation department agreed to step down at the request of Republican Gov. Charlie Baker, administration officials said Tuesday.

Baker sought the resignations last week as a prelude to filing legislation that would create a new financial control board to oversee the troubled Boston-area public transit system, which was plagued by massive breakdowns during a spate of severe winter storms.

John Jenkins, the chairman of the seven-member MassDOT board who had initially seemed reluctant to step down, submitted his letter of resignation, said Tim Buckley, a spokesman for the governor.

Board members Dominic Blue, Joseph Bonfiglio, Robin Chase and Andrew Whittle also submitted letters, officials said, while a sixth member, Janice Loux, had communicated her intention to resign.

All six had been appointed to four-year terms during the administration of former Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick.

“The governor is grateful for all of the members’ service to the Commonwealth, is thankful for their recommendations and looks forward to assembling a new team of transportation experts to assist MassDOT,” Buckley said in a statement.

The seventh member of the MassDOT board is Baker’s transportation secretary, Stephanie Pollack, who is expected to lead a reconstituted board that would help direct highway and other state transportation functions, while the financial control board - if approved by the Legislature - would assume oversight of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for the next three to five years.

The control board was one of the key recommendations of a special advisory panel that Baker created to examine the MBTA in the wake of the winter breakdowns that frustrated and angered commuters. The panel, in a scathing report, cited a “pervasive organizational failure,” and declared the T to be in “severe financial distress.”

Jenkins appeared to push back at Baker’s call to resign during a MassDOT board meeting last week, noting that the Legislature had created the current governing structure as part of a 2009 transportation reform law.

Baker on Tuesday also sought to clear up questions about whether the MBTA’s interim executive director, Frank DePaola, was fully behind the effort to create the control board. At a transportation forum last week, DePaola, a former state highway director, acknowledged concerns about undermining the 2009 law, The Boston Globe reported.

During an appearance on Boston Herald Radio, the governor said he since had a “clarifying conversation” with DePaola, and when asked if DePaola was fully behind the proposed change, Baker responded that DePaola had always supported the change.

DePaola was tapped to be interim head of the T after Beverly Scott resigned in February.

Baker also said he had briefed Democratic legislative leaders on the framework of the MBTA bill that he expected to file shortly, and was anticipating a lively discussion over it.

“Every legislative debate about everything is always a little complicated and I think this one will be too,” he said.

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