It was a lengthy session at METRO's monthly board meeting. A large number of people came for public comment to express their concerns over the new construction of Houston's East End's light-rail line. There was talk of budget agenda's and cutbacks, so it was business as usual until Chairman Gilbert Garcia spoke.
"I'm announcing today that the President-CEO of METRO Mr. George Greanias has been suspended for violating METRO's electronic communications guideline by accessing adult content on the internet."
Effectively immediately, Greanias has been suspended for one week without pay. The issue came to light two weeks ago when METRO's I.T. department was working on employee internet access. A violation of internet policy was flagged and it was traced back to Greanias' personal computer. The reason it showed up was because he was using the METRO Wi-Fi network. Garcia was quick to point out that no one is above the law when it comes to METRO's strict policies.
"We hold all employees accountable for any policy violations, and company leadership must be held to a higher standard of conduct. With that in mind, the one week suspension without pay for George Greanias is a greater penalty than would normally be assessed on a METRO employee for this type of first-time offense."
Since Greanias took over as President last year METRO has frequently mentioned their new policy of "openness" and "transparency." Which is why Garcia and the board felt it was important to go public with this information, no matter how painful it is for them. However, with all the work METRO has done to change its public perception, where does this leave the transit authority when there's a violation coming from the person who has perpetuated the policy?
"I think it will be a bump in the road there is no doubt, there is no doubt...but I do think there is a lot of goodwill that METRO employees have for George. They know what he's doing, they know his sincerity, they know he works all the time and I don't think anyone is going to judge him, and I would hope they don't."
The week's suspension could just as easily have been a resignation on Greanias' part and the thought did cross his mind. Garcia again.
"He asked me if he thought he should resign. I told him he needs to make that determination on his own but that he had my full support. He took some time to think it through. He was very embarrassed. I think he made the right decision because he's very critical to the success of all the things, all the reform, all the great things we're doing here at METRO, and we stand behind him."
In a statement from Mayor Annise Parker's office, she is "aware" of the issue and is "supportive of the board's decision." In the interim METRO decisions will be made by the board, led by Executive Vice-President John Sedlak and Senior Vice-President Tom Lambert. Greanias will return to his position as CEO on Monday August 8th.