Governor Baker and Transport Secretary Pollack have named some rando from Texas as new MBTA chief. Luis Ramirez is described thusly:
Luis Ramirez is currently a consultant in the Dallas-Fort Worth area specializing in business turnarounds. He was chief executive of an industrial supplier to the power industry for nearly three years after working in energy-related positions at GE.
No transit background whatsoever. You can almost hear the eyebrows raised in reporter Adam Vaccaro’s description. And then Sec. Pollack’s description of the search is a real head-scratcher, too:
“In fact, transit expert was not high on our priority list when we launched the search for a new general manager,” Pollack said at an event Tuesday announcing Ramirez’s appointment. “What we wanted was a successful and seasoned executive with a proven track record at leading complex organizations through transformation and change.”
Well then. Under the very best of circumstances, a generous dose of skepticism and scrutiny is called for here. If “transit expert” is not particularly important to you, then you’d better be darned sure he’s capable of delivering on the “turnaround” part.
Unfortunately, WBUR’s Meghna Chakrabarti and Kathleen McNerney poked some serious holes in that story as well. Ramirez claims credit for a “turnaround” at a company called Global Power, which he led from 2012 to early 2015:
In March 2017, the company refiled its accounting information with the SEC. The new reports contain significant differences in key measures of the company’s financial health. For example, in its original filing, Global Power Equipment Group reported a net income of $11 million for 2014, the final complete business year Ramirez served as CEO. The company’s restated SEC filings show that in 2014, it actually had a net loss of $47 million. Global Power Equipment Group originally overstated its 2014 net income by 524 percent.
I have questions …
- Why wasn’t a transit expert chosen? Or at least specifically a contracting expert? If you’re going mark those big Keolis and Green Line contracts as your largest priority, can we have someone who has wide experience in the field?
- Isn’t Ramirez’s record at Global Power a major dent in his reputation as a “turnaround expert”? Baker and Pollack were aware of his record, and aware of the lawsuits against him; presumably aware of the earnings restatements. How did they get past this?
- What kind of public credibility does Ramirez bring to the job? If we can’t believe his past earnings statements, how do we believe him with regard to the MBTA?
- This fellow was really the most qualified, most confidence-inspiring person they could find? Is $300K+ not enough to land someone thoroughly excellent? (“It isn’t the high price of stars that is expensive, it’s the high price of mediocrity.“)
We seem to have a new transit chief who doesn’t know transit; a turnaround expert who’s seemingly responsible for rather the wrong kind of turnaround. Apart from that … what do we have here?
I think we’re bending over backwards if we don’t call this a really big blunder, at first blush. What are we supposed to think, Governor?