HART Taps New Rail Chief: Grabauskas from Boston

Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation

UPDATED 5:15 p.m. 2/24/2012

The Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation has identified Daniel Grabauskas, formerly of the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, as the lone finalist for the permanent executive director position.

The board will meet March 1 to take public testimony and vote on Grabauskas' confirmation. If confirmed, he's expected to start the new job in mid-April, according to a press release. Grabauskas' proposed three-year contract has an annual base salary of $245,000, plus $42,000 per year for housing and transportation and the possibility of a $35,000 annual performance bonus.

"Dan Grabauskas is a proven leader in the transit industry and we are pleased to be considering him for HART's top job," said Keslie Hui, chairman of HART's Human Resources Committee, in the release. "His leadership experience with one of the nation's largest public transportation networks, his familiarity with navigating the federal funding process, and his passion for public service make him well-suited to lead HART at this important juncture."

UPDATE In a press conference held outside of HART headquarters on Hotel Street late Friday afternoon, Hui said the full board had an opportunity to interview Grabauskas and that consensus was reached. The compensation package could include one year of severance pay if Grabauskas is terminated early, but the final terms of the contract are not yet finalized.

Grabauskas said he was excited to learn more about the project and that he's a believer in honest, open communication.

"I am truly honored to have been given this opportunity and humbled to be joining this community," he said in the release.

One of the first results of a Google search for Grabauskas' name is an August 2009 Boston Globe article with the ominous headline "Embattled MBTA chief resigns." The story notes that Grabauskas is a Republican appointed by then-Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, left amid lots of problems and political squabbles.

The change comes after (then-new Gov. Deval) Patrick questioned the management of the public transit agency in the wake of two Green Line crashes and financial troubles. But Grabuaskas's backers, who include legislative leaders and members of the T board, have praised his work leading the chronically troubled transit agency and say Patrick's campaign to remove him is purely political.

UPDATE Hui said HART already did due diligence on Grabauskas' background — including a "lot of articles" about him leaving the MBTA — and determined that his ouster was due to a change in the governor's office.

HART also released a short biography for Grabauskas.

His most recent job has been as chairman of the Bronner Center for Transportation Management, where his current boss today quickly congratulated him on the job offer in Honolulu.

In 2007, Boston Magazine listed him as the highest-paid civil servant, with a $255,000 annual salary that surpassed Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Masschusetts Gov. Deval Patrick.

Interim executive director Toru Hamayasu had applied for the position but was not selected. He'll be in charge until a permanent chief is here, and then he'll continue in a "senior leadership position" thereafter.

UPDATE Hui confirmed Hamayasu's interest in the position, and declined to say how far he advanced in the recruitment process. He said it was difficult to tell Hamayasu that he wasn't the final choice.

The press release and press conference came after calls from the media for improved transparency surrounding the search for an executive director and the rail project in general.

Hui said the board is working with the other finalists — a list of 13 from the headhunting firm Krauthamer and Associates was winnowed first to five and then to three when two removed themselves from consideration — to determine if they'll be able to release their names.

He said ability to communicate the benefits of the project was a key attribute the board was looking for in its executive search.

"We were looking for a lot. We were looking for experience, communication skills, a record of honesty and openness," Hui said. "We were looking for strong leadership."

Here's the recruitment plan devised by Krauthamer and Associates, HART's headhunting firm:

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