MTA Top Exec Elliot Sander Resigns

With a bailout agreement now in place, Gov. David Paterson wasted little time in reshaping the leadership of the financially-troubled Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Paterson accepted the resignation Thursday of MTA Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer Elliot G. Sander, who will end his tenure as the head of the cash-strapped system by the end of the month.

"I've been in government long enough to understand governors, mayors, Presidents have the prerogative to have people in positions they feel comfortable with and have the right to make their own appointments," Sander told The New York Daily News.

Paterson criticized agency leadership Thursday at an appearance at a Manhattan train station.

“We're going to have just a widespread cleanup and cleanout of the MTA and start getting this place working in an effective way,” Paterson said, “because the one thing that I learned through this process is that the public doesn't trust anything the MTA says.”

Sander and MTA Board Chairman Dale Hemmerdinger were appointed by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in 2007. Sander offered his resignation after Paterson became governor last March but he was asked to stay.

"It's been a pretty unusual two and a half years,"  Sander told The News. "The entire experience has been a little different than I thought it would be, including the outcome."

Paterson hasn't named a successor, but a likely candidate is former Deputy Mayor Marc Shaw. Shaw, a senior advisor to Gov. Paterson, headed the MTA in the mid-1990s.

Sander's sudden resignation comes a day after a massive, $2.26 billion bailout plan for the MTA was approved in Albany.

The bailout package allows the MTA, which runs the system, to hike fares and tolls by only about 10 percent, from $2 a ride to $2.25.  This replaced a "doomsday" plan that would have hiked fares up to 30 percent and cut service on some bus and train lines.

The MTA has blamed the economic downturn for a $1.2 billion budget deficit.  By law, the agency must balance its budget each year.

Just this week, Sander did not sound like a man about to resign.

"I'm pleased," Sander said after the bailout passed. "Given the state's economic circumstances, the political factors that were in play, it's a good outcome. It puts us on a stable footing for the next several years."

The new plan also calls for an overhaul of the MTA's oversight and accounting structure.  There was speculation that Gov. Paterson could eliminate the job of Chief Executive or that of MTA Chairman, currently occupied by H. Dale Hemmerdinger.

As the MTA's head honcho, Sander pulled in a cool $275,000 per year.

Sander was appointed in January 2007 to head the nation's largest mass transit agency by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

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