Honolulu Rail CEO selection lost confidence in Boston

Daniel Grabauskas
Daniel Grabauskas

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - He's poised to get a three year contract worth $322,000 a year but Daniel Grabauskas comes to Hawaii with some of baggage.  Grabauskas departed from Boston's train system under controversy but even those that paved the way for his resignation two and a half years ago are not willing to throw him under the bus today.

The Boston area headlines about Daniel Grabauskas have read, 'Board Members blast Grabauskas,' 'Budget contains record deficit' and 'Embattled chief resigns.'  The man those stories are about is the lone finalist to lead Honolulu's rail transit.

On July 27, 2009 three Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority board members wrote a letter of concern about Grabauskas saying, "We have certainly lost confidence in the General Manager's ability to take ownership of the failings of an agency he has led for nearly five years. Nor do we have any confidence that he can execute a plan that will address our concerns at this critical juncture. Sadly the general manager seems to be out of touch."

Darnell Williams was one of the board members who signed that letter.

"The board felt at that time the issues were not being met with the type of urgency we felt was needed," said Williams, by phone.  "I would have to honestly say there was no board member gleefully sitting there trying to pull the trigger in a malicious way against Mr. Grabauskas. It was a management and a business decision that was made and we tried to do it with as much human dignity as possible."

At the time four other board members countered the letter of no confidence with their own letter supporting Grabauskas.

Former Massachusetts Transportation Director James Aloisi says Grabauskas' ouster was all political. Grabauskas who was appointed by then Republican Governor Mitt Romney and was pushed out by the new Democratic administration of Deval Patrick.

"In Massachusetts politics can be a blood sport and circumstances arose where there was a parting of the ways but that in no way in my judgment, in no way reflects on his abilities, his integrity and his strong skill set," said Aloisi.

Aloisi also says the systems financial concerns cannot be fully blamed on Grabauskas.

"Oh God no, absolutely not, those concerns pre-date him and post date him and if you know anything about Massachusetts you can't lay any of that on his doorstep or any single individual's doorstep," said Aloisi.

Even former critics give Grabauskas credit and say his battle in Boston is good experience for what lies ahead in Honolulu.

"That is what life is all about, everybody can get knocked down in a fight and that's not the message. The message is that can you get up and do you live to fight another day and Dan has proven he's up and still in the ring, has his gloves on and is ready to go for another shot at it," said Williams.

Honolulu's rail board will listen to public testimony and vote on Grabauskas this Thursday morning at 10:00 am at the Mission Memorial Annex conference room in the building next to Honolulu Hale.  For information about submitting testimony click here.

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