Richard Enty, executive director of Metro Regional Transit Authority, began serving a five-day suspension without pay Wednesday after turning himself in for texting while in a Metro vehicle.
The Metro board approved the suspension Tuesday at an executive session.
Enty told the Beacon Journal on Wednesday he realized he had a texting problem when a bus pulled next to him as he texted about two weeks ago. He reported the violation to the board, which acted at its next regular board meeting Tuesday.
Metro spokeswoman Molly Becker said the board “wanted to just give him a letter of reprimand; he asked to be treated like anybody at Metro.”
A bus driver is suspended three days for a first offense of texting or any operation of a personal device. A second offense calls for a 15-day suspension, and a third offense can result in dismissal.
Because he is a contract executive, the minimum suspension for Enty is five working days.
A copy of Enty’s email to Metro staff is available at Ohio.com.
Metro’s policy applies to drivers in revenue-producing vehicles, those with fare boxes. Enty’s violation came in his Metro-owned Ford Escape, a small sport utility vehicle that has no fare box and is not used for passengers.
Summit County also prohibits texting while driving.
Dean Harris, Metro’s Director of Finance, will lead the bus system during Enty’s suspension.
Enty, who came to Metro last year after a long career at Cleveland’s Regional Transit Authority, is paid $117,246 a year. His suspension will cost him $2,254.
Part of Enty’s responsibility in Cleveland was to investigate accidents. Earlier, when he was a driver for the system’s light trains, he was a passenger when two trains collided. A passenger, who also was an AAU swimmer, lost his legs in that accident. He said learning details of the multiple mistakes and habits that led to that crash altered his attitudes about safety.
The importance of correcting bad habits led Enty to realize he had to turn himself in.
“As the leader of an organization that stresses safety and always striving to do the right things, even when no one is looking, I had to make this [decision],” he said. “Because, again, we are all human, we all have certain habits and what I have learned in accident investigations, not just at Metro but at RTA when I was investigating accidents … is that accidents usually result from series of bad habits that go unchecked over a period of days, weeks, months or possibly even years.”
As for his own texting, Enty said he saw trouble coming if he didn’t change his ways.
“I won’t call it a bad habit,” he said. “I will say that I saw it moving in that direction.”
He made up his mind when a bus pulled up next to him as he texted.
“I looked to my right and I saw one of our buses there and I thought to myself, he may or he may not have seen me,” he said. “But it would be just a matter of time if I didn’t break this habit, that he or somebody with the public or God forbid that I have an accident because I wasn’t devoting full attention to driving.”
Board President Saundra Foster said she was surprised the suspension could be a news story, but defended the board’s action
“What we are trying to do is insure that all employees are treated fairly and equally,” she said. “The board took action on something that was necessary and that’s where we stand.”
Ultimately, she said the board had no choice.
“It was very difficult to do but you have to do what’s right,” she said. “And so we just did what our responsibility was.”
Dave Scott can be reached at 330-996-3577 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Scott on Twitter at Davescottofakro.