RTA Chief Says He Wasn't Alerted to Ex-Board President's Health Insurance Problems
The recent revelation by the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority's board of trustees that its longtime president, George Dixon III, owed the transit authority more than $1 million in unpaid health premiums and undeserved health, vision and dental benefits is raising questions about how Dixon pulled off this feat. It wasn't until a new finance director came in several months ago that the RTA conducted an audit and took action. Joe Calabrese has been the RTA's CEO since 2000 and has worked with Dixon for about 18 years. He told ideastream's Amy Eddings he couldn't provide details because the RTA's findings have been turned over to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor for possible criminal prosecution. But here's what he could talk about:
On what Calabrese knew about Dixon's problems paying his health insurance premiums:
The board did pass a policy in 1994, which they reversed, to allow board members to be covered under health insurance if they paid the premium, 100 % of the premium. And over the years that did not happen, or happened sporadically. The total amount of his premiums was not paid. When that came to light earlier this year, we moved into action and informed the board and you've heard of the results.
There was a situation that looked into in early 2000, 2002, 2003, at that time. I was told he was current and I tasked the staff to be sure he was current or inform me others. Again, the first time I was told was February of this year when the finance director said, 'Do you know THIS?' So, we started this process through the internal audit department and through the board.
On George Dixon:
I think George is a very likeable person. Everyone loves George. George is a character. He has a great personality. I think he did a great control as board president, overseeing and getting board consensus. This was a part of George that we just did not know.
On getting the money back:
I can't speak to that. All I can speak to is the board's intent is to do to do everything it can to get that money back.
On disciplinary action against employees who helped Dixon maintain his health insurance despite non-payment of premiums:
Appropriate action will certainly be taken as soon as possible.
The question on everybody's mind is, "Why didn't this come to light sooner?"
It's a question on my mind, as well. Unfortunately, this never came to my attention and thereby never came to light.