Stephen Banta has been the CEO of Phoenix’s Valley Metro Regional Public Transportation Authority since 2010 but is now being forced out after reports on his spending misuse have surfaced in recent weeks. However, AZCentral.com reports, Banta will take a $265,000 annuity he received while working for the company with him.
Valley Metro has two boards of elected officials, and they both officially accepted his resignation on Monday following a special meeting. With approximately 18 days of paid vacation time still left to burn Banta, who’s currently on administrative leave and not allowed in the office, will be out of work come Jan. 4.
Banta resigned on Nov. 24 after an investigation and subsequent report by The Arizona Republic found potential misappropriations in his expense account funds. First-class round trips for he and his wife, hotel rooms, and exorbitant dinners (one bill allegedly hit $4,700), which he claimed were for clients but has been disputed by those parties, are among the claims against Banta.
In an attempt to avoid litigation, it appears board members have been careful not to go for the throat and come down too harshly on the disgraced CEO. For example, they have not asked Banta to repay any of the funds and are approaching a potential separation agreement with caution.
If the boards had outright fired him, even after the story came out, Banta would have been entitled to one year’s salary, which for him would be about $265,000.
Even though the public company plans to have an outside party perform a complete audit, they seem more concerned with moving past this issue and simply getting Banta to go away as soon as possible. If he decides to sue for some reason, it could lead to a messy and prolonged courtroom battle that could ultimately end in a settlement, as the majority (80 to 92% by some estimates) do.
In related news, three Phoenix City Council members called on the state Attorney General’s Office to conduct a criminal investigation into Valley Metro last Friday.