New hire charged with reining in HART’s budget to get $329 an hour

Updated: Mar. 19, 2019 at 3:17 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Five months after he was ousted as the head of a Canadian rail project, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation has hired veteran rail executive Paul Giannelia.

Giannelia is a friend of HART’s CEO Andrew Robbins. The rail authority said it hired him for his expertise as one of the foremost builders of mega transportation projects and to get the project back on track.

But news reports say Giannelia stepped down in November as head of Calgary’s multi-billion dollar light rail project after he clashed with employees.

“It simply didn’t work, he was gone within months with a description it was a human resources problem, which to me suggest there were some major concerns," said retired University of Hawaii law professor and rail critic Randall Roth.

The Calgary Herald reported back in November that city political leaders were warned that Giannelia would “ruffle a few feathers."

He was there only seven months.

“This would raise concerns even if we weren’t $4 billion over budget. As it is, there ... should be alarms going off somewhere,” Roth added.

HART is at a crossroads trying to get private development companies to bid the remaining parts of the project.

Giannelia’s firm will provide an independent cost estimate for its Pearl Highlands Transit Center and its City Center Guideway system.

The rail authority told Hawaii News Now Giannelia was hired for three months for a total $256,000. But he could potentially work on the project for three years.

HART did not provide a copy of his contract, but documents show he’s been authorized a “fully-loaded” hourly rate of $329 for up to 60 hours of work.

The rate covers direct and indirect costs, including labor, travel and incidentals.

He’s listed as a HART executive but rail documents show that the rail authority hired him through contractor HDR Engineering, which is paying his salary.

That makes him the latest of more than a dozen outside consultants who are serving as HART’s top managers. These managers’ six-figure salaries are being paid for by HART’s contractors.

In a report in January, State Legislative Auditor Les Kondo said these embedded consultants are big reason for the rail project’s soaring costs.

“They are different from HART employees. They don’t answer to the same master,” Kondo told Hawaii News Now on Jan. 15.

“We have a project that has almost doubled in cost. Yet who’s accountable for delivering the project. Is it HART or is it these consultants?”

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