HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Dan Grabauskas has been the Chief Executive Officer of Honolulu's rail project for 4 1/2 years. His contract is not finished, but he resigned on Thursday. The current Director of Transportation Services Mike Formby will be temporarily leaving his post and taking over as interim CEO for the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation (HART). As the Director, Formby is also a board member for HART, a position he will also give up as he fills the role of CEO.
Formby appeared on Sunrise to talk about the changes. He said that it was by mutual agreement by Grabauskas and the board that he resign. Formby had only positive words for Grabauskas, saying that he was the right man at the right time for the project when he was hired, but now for the construction phase, it needs a person with a different skill set. He said that Grabauskas recognized that and factored that into his decision and then offered to leave.
Formby does not plan to remain the CEO for very long. He's hoping to find a new CEO in the next 2 1/2 to 3 months.
Grabauskas is not leaving empty handed. He gets more than $280,000 in a severance package that was within the confines of his contract. Basically, taxpayers play him a one year salary for doing nothing. When asked if that was too high a price to pay for taxpayers, Formby said that Grabauskas was entitled to this. He was an investment for the project, and he feels that by getting a new CEO it will make such a difference, residents will be grateful for the direction the project will take.
Formby said he didn't ask for this position, but he feels that he's in a unique place. He said that he has a strong relationship with the mayor, the city auditor and the city council and he feels confident he can make a lot of progress in very little time.
He and Mayor Kirk Caldwell plan to meet with federal transit administration at the end of August and submit a plan by the end of September. Formby is hoping that we can have a plan in place in order to finish the full 20 miles of rail by the end of the year. He said it's a complicated process with a lot of moving parts, but he feels they can do it.
On his agenda as the transition guy, Formby wants to improve the morale of the HART staff. He said that it's been a tough time for them because of all the criticism around the city and in the media. He also hopes to improve communication with the mayor, the city council and the state legislature.
As for being the face of rail and the recipient of what has been some scathing criticisms, Formby said he's used to it as the Director of Transportation Services. As the man who heads up the Bus and the roads around Honolulu, he's gotten an earful from upset people or from those who think they have a better solution. "It's part of the job," he said and he expects to hear much more in the coming days as he becomes Mr. Rail.