Washington ferries executive placed on leave
BREMERTON, Wash. (AP) - A Washington State Ferries executive whose ticket-seller son was fired by the agency has been placed on administrative leave for undisclosed reasons.
Operations director Steve Rodgers was administratively reassigned to his home July 3, The Kitsap Sun reported. Rodgers must remain there and be available by phone from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday while an investigation is underway, according to a letter signed by Cam Gilmour, the chief operating officer of the state Department of Transportation.
The newspaper said it obtained the letter under a public records request. Rodgers did not immediately respond to an email from The Associated Press seeking comment Saturday.
Rodgers' son Josh, a ticket seller at the Fauntleroy terminal, was fired last December after a spot check revealed that $529 was missing from his working fund.
Josh Rodgers insisted that he just borrowed the money for gas and was going to pay it back the next day. He's appealing his termination through the Inlandboatmen's Union, and it's not clear whether his father's administrative leave is related.
The Sun reported that questions had been raised about whether Josh Rodgers received preferential treatment over the years. A human resources consultant for the ferries wrote a letter four days before the firing that said that while Josh Rodgers had received six verbal or written warnings since July 2010, terminal supervisors never asked management for disciplinary action.
By contrast, supervisors requested disciplinary action five times for a co-worker at Fauntleroy who received eight warnings since 2007.
"Unfortunately, this entire process has had bits and pieces of nepotism, and this is not the image that employees should have of WSF management," the consultant, Jim Schofield, wrote to the agency's operations and construction director, George Capacci.
"I understand terminating an employee is not an easy decision and regardless of favoritism it is difficult when you work closely with the employee's father," Schofield wrote.
He noted that there had been at least 23 incidents of theft in the ferry system since 2000, and that Josh Rodgers' case was being handled differently. He warned that if Josh Rodgers wasn't fired or allowed to resign in lieu of termination, it would be difficult in the future to dismiss employees for theft.
Transportation Department spokesman Lars Erickson said he was concerned that reporting on individual cases of wrongdoing could present a misleading image of the ferry system.
"Those incidents are very serious, and we use a deliberate process with data and factual information to determine corrective action when appropriate," he said. "There are 1,800 employees at Washington State Ferries that are committed public servants to keep our vessels moving. I don't want the public to think there is a systemic problem here."
News of Steve Rodgers' administrative leave comes amid a tough summer for the agency.
Transportation officials are investigating after a Seattle-bound Washington state ferry was mistakenly loaded with too many passengers and forced to return to the Bremerton terminal Friday.
On Aug. 3, a ferry from San Juan Island to Anacortes suffered a mechanical problem, and passengers were told to huddle on the main passenger level and don life jackets. In late July, a ferry lost power on the system's busiest route, stranding hundreds of passengers in Puget Sound until the vessel could be towed to the dock.