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SANDAG Executive Gary Gallegos To Retire Amid Scandal

SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos sits in a SANDAG board meeting, Aug. 4, 2017.
Nicholas McVicker
SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos sits in a SANDAG board meeting, Aug. 4, 2017.

Gary Gallegos, the executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments, said Tuesday he will leave the agency by the end of the year.

"While retirement has been on my mind for some time, my goal during the last few months has been to help SANDAG and our incredibly talented team through the process of an independent examination of our forecasting efforts, as well as keep the organization moving forward on major initiatives," Gallegos said in a statement.

RELATED: SANDAG Executive To Face Review For Role In Forecasting Scandal


His retirement was first made public in a tweet from the San Diego Union-Tribune's opinions editor. Gallegos "will leave by year's end to be a 'cowboy' on his Colorado ranch," the tweet said.

The SANDAG board of directors voted last Friday to review Gallegos's performance in a future closed session meeting. The vote came after the board heard the results of an independent investigation into SANDAG's revenue forecasting scandal.

The investigation came after reports by Voice of San Diego that SANDAG had repeatedly overestimated how much money it would raise through tax measures. Investigators found Gallegos, SANDAG General Counsel John Kirk and other executives at the agency responded to the scandal poorly, creating the appearance of a cover-up.

Gallegos has been at the helm of SANDAG since 2001. Prior to joining the agency, he was the Caltrans district director for San Diego and Imperial Counties.

RELATED: Investigation Details How SANDAG Pushed Boundaries Of Public Records Law


Last December, the board voted unanimously to give Gallegos a 4 percent bonus, boosting his annual salary to $310,000.

Environmental groups and public transit advocates have long complained that Gallegos has been too focused on improving San Diego's freeways and roads at the expense of transit and bicycle infrastructure. His supporters have praised him as an effective advocate for San Diego's transportation needs at the state and federal level.

"Gary Gallegos will leave us as a giant in regional planning and transportation," said County Supervisor and SANDAG board chairman Ron Roberts in a statement. "His drive and effectiveness as a transportation leader are nationally renowned, particularly when it comes to bringing investment into our community and getting creative projects started and completed. While he will be sorely missed, I must honor his decision."