By STEVE LeBLANC Associated Press
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island Senate President Dominick Ruggerio called for the resignation of Rhode Island Public Transit Authority CEO Scott Avedisian on Friday, citing what he called, “enduring challenges that have only grown more severe over the years.”
The Democrat pointed to what he called foreseeable problems — including a driver shortage at the start of the school year — that have been left unaddressed until there was a crisis.
“There have been unacceptable management gaffes, such as the granting of a no-bid lobbying contract to a political ally, apparently without the board’s knowledge,” Ruggerio said in a written statement.
Ruggerio said no meaningful plan to confront the agency’s fiscal challenges has been presented to the General Assembly, and the state is again faced with “putting band aids on a gaping wound.”
Ruggerio said he will be submitting legislation soon that would place the agency under the control of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.
“I am asking that CEO Scott Avedisian step down immediately, and that the governor conduct a national search for someone with expertise in transit to head Rhode Island’s public transit office,” he said.
Avedisian defended his tenure at the agency saying that the challenges facing RIPTA stretch back years.
“Since my first day here I have worked with the dedicated RIPTA team to make us better, and we have accomplished a great deal,” he said in a written statement.
He said he and his team has balanced the agency’s budget and increased capital funding, added new buses and paratransit vehicles to the fleet and helped place the agency’s pension plan on firmer ground.
“Based on this record, we received over $45 million in federal grants, a testament to the good work of the RIPTA team,” he said. “Meanwhile, we were one of only a few transit agencies in the United States not to cut service during the pandemic.”
Avedisian acknowledged more work was needed and said he looked forward to speaking with the Senate.
Ruggerio said he’s also asking the Senate Rules, Government Ethics and Oversight Committee to conduct an oversight hearing of the agency.
“A quality, well-functioning public transit system is vital to the people of our state and our economy,” he said. “It is time for wholesale reform at RIPTA.”