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Dori: Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff lets people die under his watch, still gets raise

Cars from an Amtrak train that derailed above spilled onto Interstate 5, Dec. 18, 2017, in DuPont, Wash. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)

You may recall that a couple of weeks ago, we found out the results of the independent review of that Amtrak train that flew off the track near DuPont. Three people were killed; others were injured. Along with the most tragic toll, the three deaths, there were people who were horribly maimed, and already $20 million of taxpayer money to victims’ families in the resulting lawsuits.

What the independent review found was that Sound Transit had many failings that led to the fatal accident.

Sound Transit is a criminal enterprise. It is not about transportation.

The chief safety officer for Sound Transit was demoted, but still has a job at Sound Transit — even though you would think that having people die under your watch as chief safety officer would be enough to get you fired.

Legislator calls for Sound Transit to reject 2018 raise for Peter Rogoff

Who oversees all of Sound Transit? It’s CEO Peter Rogoff. Peter Rogoff makes really good dough — about $360,000 per year.

But it gets even better. Peter Rogoff was just given by the Sound Transit Board of Directors in his annual review a rating of “excellent.” What comes with that? He gets a $6,000 bonus and a 4 percent raise. Now he will be making $385,000 per year.

What did he do to get an “excellent” rating? He oversees an agency that had such safety failures, three human beings died — let that sink in, people died under Peter Rogoff’s watch. He oversees an agency that is billions over budget and 13 years behind schedule. He oversees an agency that sues the voters because the voters dared to say that they wanted $30 car tabs.

Well, I can certainly see why a man like this would get an “excellent” rating and all of the financial benefits that come with it.

He overturns the will of the voters. He illegally taxes citizens. People die and are maimed under his watch. And his projects are billions and over 10 years over budget and late.

According to the Sound Transit Board, the reason for this raise was because of his communication and relationship-building skills. So you’ve got those positives on one side of the scale … but you’ve got dead bodies on the other side. To me, that’s not “excellent.” I think the dead bodies actually outweigh it. I’d go “below average” or maybe even “poor” when your agency kills people.

That’s why Sound Transit needs to make sure the $30 tabs effort loses in court. They need to reward the big dogs in government. And if that means that the families, the working-class people have to suffer, so be it. The guy making $45,000 a year working hard who gets this outrageous $450 car tab bill — well, Peter Rogoff needs that money. The $45,000 guy does not; that money goes to the big dog. Hopefully it comes with a promise that his agency won’t kill anyone anymore.

If you get an “excellent” rating two weeks after the report comes out that Sound Transit was the main agency responsible for three deaths, then what happens if nobody dies in 2020? What is above “excellent?” Does Peter Rogoff get a “super-fantabulous” rating? Could he get a 100 percent raise — up to $750,000?

And speaking of transit high-ups who get paid too much — we got a tip about the CEO of Community Transit, Emmett Heath. On top of his $300,000-per-year salary, he gets a $700-per-month car allowance; it used to be $600, but he was just bumped up an extra $100 per month. This is the guy who is in charge of a bus agency — who tells all of us we should take public transit.

If you make $300,000 a year running a local transit agency, is it unreasonable for me as a taxpayer to think you should just buy your own car? Community Transit sent us the following explanation:

As part of his role, he attends many offsite community, business, and transit executive meetings throughout Snohomish County and Seattle. The allowance is provided for him to drive his own car, as we have a limited number of company service vehicles for other staff to use. Unlike Seattle, we work in an industrial area of South Everett, where there is only one bus route providing service in the morning and afternoon, limiting access to transit in the middle of the day.

So the guy who runs the transit agency does not practice what he preaches and take transit — and in fact, he does not even pay for his car himself out of the $300,000 per year that he makes. The taxpayers fund it.

And then people wonder why I am continually blowing a whistle and shining a light on the scam that is transit around here. It is not about transportation; it is about enriching the people at the top, creating bureaucratic jobs, and rewarding the unions that back the candidates who make sure these things happen. Meanwhile, we continue to have some of the worst gridlock in the United States.

Listen to the Dori Monson Show weekday afternoons from 12-3 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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