This morning members of HART''s Finance, Governance and Administration Committee discussed a draft of a employment agreement they hope to soon present to Katharine Eagan. Eagan is the transit agency's former Chief Operating Officer who was named last month to succeed Philip Hale as HART's CEO on an interim basis, and with so many events still in flux with the agency, figures to be around probably for the rest of this year, if not longer.
The new contract that will be offered to her is expected to be for $163,000. That's considerably less than the $183,000 that Hale was making (some of that in deferred salary) when he stepped down last month after leading the agency for the past three years, prompting CL to ask Eagan if she was the victim of the gender pay gap?
She says that a review of local and regional transit CEO's shows that most of them make between $175,000-$185,000 and going up from there. "So in my discussions with the general counsel, my intent was to provide a salary estimate that acknowledges that the duties are really different going from COO to CFO, so it's fair for that."
But is it fair for someone who is in effect auditioning for the job right now? "My intent is to do a fantastic job for the agency, for the County, and the board, and come back to a future agreement where there'll be a full-time salary, and there'll be no inequity there," she says.
Eagan was hired in 2009 at a salary of $135,000 as Chief of Service Development at the agency, and moved up to Chief Operating Officer in 2011. Her current salary is $141,000. So the new salary as an interim replacement is a sizable increase, but again, much less than what Hale was making before he packed it in this year.
Regardless of her interim status, the fact is that Eagan is in charge of the agency right now, at a time where there is considerable uncertainty about the future of transit in Hillsborough County. Much will be determined this fall by its surrounding counties — both Pinellas and Polk have transit referendums on the ballot that could change "the universe" as Eagan calls it. And there's also the fate of the agency itself, which could expand in terms of its mission, based on what the County's Transportation Leadership group decides later this year.
"Until that gets back are you talking about a CEO of the entity today, or are you talking about a CEO that moves into a sort of 'superagency' thing?" she asks. That's why HART board members apparently aren't in a hurry to even hire a recruiting firm to search for a full-time CEO. Such an executive search is expected to take months, and the agency's board hasn't said anything about such a search for several meetings now.
"An executive search could take six months minimum," Eagan speculates. " So if you posted that today, you'd be bringing people in around the (November) election, and that could be a totally different thing you're looking for."
In other words, expect Eagan to be in charge of HART through 2014, if not beyond that.