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SANDAG Executive’s Performance Review May Never Happen

SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos sits in a SANDAG board meeting, Aug. ...

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos sits in a SANDAG board meeting, Aug. 4, 2017.

On Aug. 4, the board of directors of the San Diego Association of Governments voted to review the performance of the agency's embattled executive director, Gary Gallegos, in a future closed session meeting. But with Gallegos requesting an early retirement this week, that review may never happen.

The vote a week and a half ago came after the board heard the results of an outside investigation into SANDAG's revenue forecasting scandal. The investigation called out Gallegos specifically for showing poor judgment and making statements that were "insufficiently transparent" as the agency reacted to the scandal.

SANDAG's executive committee is set to decide on Friday whether Gallegos can be relieved of his duties that same day. Under his contract, Gallegos must give notice 120 days before leaving his job.

RELATED: Embattled SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos Wants Out By Friday

Gallegos, 57, requested that requirement be waived. He first announced his plans to retire last week.

SANDAG spokeswoman Kristiene Gong said if Gallegos is allowed to leave his job on Friday, "a closed session on the basis of his performance may not be merited. However, the Board could still meet in closed or open session about various aspects of the results of the investigation that could concern SANDAG employees."

The executive committee is made up of six voting members — elected officials from throughout San Diego County — who also sit on the board of directors. The committee also has four non-voting advisory members, and other SANDAG board members sometimes show up and speak at the committee's meetings.

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear, who sits on the SANDAG board but not on the executive committee, said she hoped the committee would grant Gallegos's request.

"What's being discussed is whether (Gallegos's retirement) happens immediately or we drag this on, and my preference would be not to drag it on," she said. "The sooner the better, because we need to rebuild credibility with the public and with the board members."

SANDAG's board policy allows the executive committee to act on behalf of the full board "when timing requires." The agency's bylaws also state: "Closed session items should be heard by the Board of Directors unless timeliness requires consideration by the Executive Committee."

County Supervisor Ron Roberts, who chairs the SANDAG board, said Monday that an early departure by Gallegos "will jump start the discussion on what type of executive director the full SANDAG board would like going forward, and the national search for candidates that will result."

Colin Parent, interim executive director of the transit advocacy nonprofit Circulate San Diego, said SANDAG has a long history of prioritizing infrastructure for cars, and that it needs to recognize San Diegans who want to make biking, walking and riding public transit more viable transportation options.

"As SANDAG looks for a new executive leadership, they're going to need to find someone who understands that, and is able to bring the board along with those new realities," he said.

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