Tuesday, October 26, 2021

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How many jobs does interim transit director have?

He was terminated in August from Oregon post over multiple jobs, now
has one in Hawaii, all the while serving as Burlington’s interim director

QUESTION: Has John Andoh, who currently serves as Burlington’s interim transit manager, also held similar posts in Hawaii and Oregon while simultaneously overseeing Burlington’s Link Transit bus system? Was Andoh ultimately sacked from his job with Columbia Area Transit in Hood River County, Oregon for allegedly juggling jobs in other jurisdictions, including Burlington, while working in Hood River County?

ANSWER: Burlington’s personnel office confirms that John Andoh joined the city’s municipal staff on May 3 and is currently employed as the city’s part-time interim transit manager at a pay rate of $40 an hour.

Andoh is also currently identified as the interim transit administrator on the website for Hawai’i County, a jurisdiction that corresponds to the state’s so-called “Big Island.” In the meantime, he is listed as the transit coordinator on the website for Escalon, California, a small town of about 7,100 in the Golden State’s Central Valley.

Andoh is not presently employed in Oregon, although he acknowledged his prior engagement in that state when The Alamance News contacted him at his Burlington phone number on Tuesday.

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Andoh, who answered the newspaper’s call within a couple of rings, confirmed that he had previously worked for Columbia Area Transit, which provides transportation services in Hood River County, Oregon. He went on to assure the newspaper that he left that eventually position of his own volition.

“The Oregon job – I resigned from there to take on a full-time opportunity in Hawaii,” Burlington’s interim transit manager said. “I’m part-time in California; I’m part-time in Burlington; and I’m working full-time in Hawai’i County. I’m happy to work for these cities as long as they need me.”

According to Mike Nunn, Burlington’s planning and transportation director, Andoh had been the city’s top pick to serve as its permanent transit manager, although he ultimately passed on the job in favor of a part-time, interim post. Nunn added that Andoh has been forthcoming with him about his other professional commitments, including the position that he once held in Oregon.

“That was disclosed when he first interviewed with us,” Nunn said in an interview Wednesday. “He was very upfront about that. He asked if he could continue doing that during the part-time process, and we were happy to allow it.”

Andoh insists that he ultimately resigned from his former position with Columbia Area Transit. A different account of his departure appeared in The Columbia Gorge News, a weekly newspaper based in Hood River, Oregon.

On August 24, The Columbia Gorge News reported that Andoh had been “fired” from his job as the transit system’s assistant executive director on August 18. The newspaper noted that Andoh had joined the transit system’s staff on May 1. It went on to recount a public statement by the system’s board chair Linda Dunn, who reportedly said that Andoh had worked “on site” for 40 hours a week until June 26, when he transitioned to a remote 20-hour-a-week schedule that lasted until August 1. The newspaper added that, according to Dunn, Andoh was placed on administrative leave without pay on August 2. It also recalled that system’s board issued a news release in mid-June to announce that it had launched an inquiry after “issues arose with Andoh’s employment.”

According to Andoh’s employment contract with Columbia Area Transit, the transit system’s assistant director was to transition to the role of executive director by July of 2022, provided that he met certain criteria- some of which are spelled out in the agreement itself. Among the conditions of Andoh’s employment was that he would work exclusively for Hood River Columbia Area Transit unless he was explicitly permitted to do otherwise.

“In both the assistant executive director and the executive director positions,” the contract asserts, “[Andoh] shall devote his principal time, attention, and energy to the business of HRCTD and shall not engage in any other remunerated business activity except with the express consent of the board.”

Andoh’s tenure with Columbia Area Transit officially ended during a board meeting on August 18 – a video of which has since been uploaded to YouTube. Toward the end of the recording, the board’s members enter “executive session” to “consider the dismissal or discipline of, or to hear charges or complaints against an officer, employee, staff member or agent” of the transit authority. Before the video cuts out, the board’s chair asks Andoh to remain “on call” during the conclave, along with the transit system’s executive director and its attorney.

The video resumes once the board has emerged from closed session, and one of its members makes a motion to “terminate” Andoh’s employment “immediately” for “breach of contract.” The same member also proposes that the board’s chair send the employee a letter “demanding the return of district property.” The motion goes on to pass in a unanimous vote of the board.

During its September meeting, which is also available on YouTube, board’s chair confirmed that it had received back the aforementioned “district property,” which included a laptop, a cell phone, and an agency car.

Andoh, for his part, strenuously disputes the official account of his termination from Columbia Area Transit. He told The Alamance News that the transit board in Hood River County hired him with full knowledge of his other commitments, which included his ongoing 21-year stint with the town of Escalon, California.

Andoh also denies any suggestion that he has given short shrift to his duties with Burlington because of his concurrent responsibilities on the West Coast.

“I want to stress that it is part-time; it is interim; and they are aware of [the other commitments],” he said of his employers in Burlington. “I do 20 to 30 hours a week. I track my times appropriately, and I do a lot of the work early in the morning,” he added before noting the time differences in Hawaii and California. “I’m just here to keep projects moving and to get things done.”

The meeting of the Columbia Area Transit board on August 18 wasn’t the only career milestone for Andoh that month.

Two days before this meeting in Hood River County, Andoh was formally introduced to Burlington’s city council during a virtual meeting on August 16, although his tenure with Burlington had technically begun three months before. Then, on August 17, he made an in-person appearance before the Hawai’i County committee on public works and mass transit after he took over as that county’s interim transit administrator.

“John went through our assessment process as we’ve been recruiting for a full-time transit manager,” the city’s planning and transportation director recalled at the time. “He was our selected candidate for that position. But during that time John, unfortunately, had some changes, personally, and he needed to take care of…and we’ve come to an interim arrangement for a part-time position.”

Andoh was ultimately presented to Burlington’s leaders as the city’s “interim” transit manager during a regularly-scheduled work session that took place over the Zoom teleconferencing platform on August 16. Andoh went on to address the council over Zoom about a multi-year plan to replace the city’s transit fleet with a combination of electric and gas-powered vehicles.

But before Andoh’s presentation that evening, Nunn briefed the council on the transit system’s temporary manager, who he said had “most recently” served as the executive director of the COMET transit system in Columbia, South Carolina.

“John went through our assessment process as we’ve been recruiting for a full-time transit manager,” the city’s planning and transportation director recalled at the time. “He was our selected candidate for that position. But during that time John, unfortunately, had some changes, personally, and he needed to take care of…and we’ve come to an interim arrangement for a part-time position.”

Nunn told The Alamance News that Andoh has worked an “average of 20 hours a week” in his interim position – most of it remotely, although he conceded that Andoh comes in “once a month when he need him.” The city’s planning and transportation director also has high praise for the performance he has received from his part-time subordinate.

“It’s been more than I had imagined,” he said. “He doesn’t ask for extensions or miss meetings. I’ve been very pleased with him.”

Similarly high praise is lavished on Andoh by Janet Collier, the transit manager for Camel Express Public Transportation, a three-bus public transit system in the small, rural Arizona town of Quartzsite near the California border.

“Public transportation is his passion,” Collier said of Andoh, who continues to serve as a “transit planner” for Quartzsite.

Collier recalled that she first became acquainted with Andoh when he was the transit director of nearby Yuma, Arizona. She said that, at the time, Andoh was “awesome in giving the town assistance, including how to apply for grants.” She added that he still serves as a consultant for the town with an annual contract that calls for $1,250 in consultation fees for the current fiscal year, based on a $25 hourly rate.

Collier said that Andoh does most of his work for Quartzsite by phone, although he occasionally comes by in person.

Vote Jim Butler, Harold Owen, Ronnie Wall

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