The head of the agency building the Chisholm Trail Parkway toll project in Fort Worth will keep his job for now, but will undergo an intense job review over the next two months.
Allen Clemson, executive director of the North Texas Tollway Authority since 2009, has been under criticism in recent weeks from some board members who believe he has mishandled the agency's affairs. For example, he has aggressively sought to change the agency's tradition of relying upon just a handful of legal, engineering and other consulting firms for tens of millions of dollars worth of work -- a move that some board members felt jeopardized millions of dollars of work already done on projects such as Chisholm Trail Parkway in Fort Worth.
But instead of putting Clemson's fate to a vote on Wednesday, board members opted to spend the next two months carefully evaluating Clemson's conduct based on two factors: how well he performed the tasks spelled out in the job description in his employment contract; and to what degree he accomplished the goals laid out in a previous job review in September. Clemson's job performance will be discussed in open session during a regular tollway board meeting and two work sessions before the review is concluded Aug. 17.
"I know of no other fair way for all nine of us to do the assessment," board member David Denison of Lewisville said during a monthly meeting Wednesday in Plano. "Many of the duties were performed satisfactorily by our executive director and some of them fell short."
A copy of the criteria by which Clemson will be judged was made public at the request of board member Kenneth Barr of Fort Worth. The list includes items such as "business diversity ... ensuring the workforce reflects the communities it serves," a subject Clemson likely will score highly on, given his attempts to shake up the mostly, white male-owned consulting firms traditionally used by the agency.
But Clemson could score poorly on some other goals, including that calls for him to "hire a deputy executive director." Clemson hasn't hired a No. 2 person since he arrived two years ago.
After the meeting, Clemson said it was his understanding that the board had decided that pursing a deputy director was not necessary, but that if the board wanted such a staffer he would comply.
Clemson said he didn't object to being scrutinized during the next two months. "Every employee needs to be under evaluation," he said. "It's part of my agreement."
Chisholm Trail Parkway is a planned 28-mile toll road from Interstate 30 near downtown Fort Worth to U.S. 67 in Celburne. The $1.8 billion project, formerly known as Southwest Parkway, is partly under construction with federal Recovery Act funds, and is expected to be under full-blown construction later this year. It is scheduled to open in 2013, although some officials worry that the opening will be delayed if the North Texas Tollway Authority doesn't complete the financing for the project quickly.
The discussion about Clemson came at the end of a five-hour tollway authority meeting, during which the nine members at times bickered over seemingly small matters. For example, a discussion about whether to allow the staff to have an employee banquet took up more than 20 minutes.
Also, on a 6-3 vote the board agreed to allow two staff members -- but no board members -- to attend an International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association conference later this year in Berlin, Germany. Several years ago, the tollway authority was criticized for paying travel expenses for several representatives to attend an association meeting in Europe, while at the same time raising tolls paid by Dallas-Fort Worth motorists.
-- Gordon Dickson, email@example.com