Metro Hires Its First Inspector General

By Lena H. Sun
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 23, 2007

Metro's board of directors appointed the first inspector general in agency history yesterday in an effort to improve oversight and track how money is managed.

Helen Lew, 55, an assistant inspector general for audit services at the U.S. Department of Education, was sworn in yesterday and will start April 30. Her salary will be $172,500.

Having an inspector general is expected to increase oversight at the agency, which has a $1.2 billion operating budget, a $700 million capital budget and more than 10,000 employees. Proposed legislation to designate a new, steady source of federal funding for Metro requires the appointment of an inspector general.

With Lew's hiring, "we are well on our way to increasing Metro's transparency, improving accountability and restoring the trust of our customers and funding partners," outgoing board chairman Charles Deegan said.

Lew will report directly to the board and will have subpoena power. She will have 27 staff members, some of whom she will hire. She will investigate contracts, audit programs, investigate reports of fraud and abuse and inform the board about "deficiencies in agency activities," the job description says.

She has 35 years of federal government experience, including a stint at the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

In other action yesterday, Metro General Manager John B. Catoe Jr. said that six Metro station parking lots will start accepting credit card payments April 2 as part of a three-month pilot program. The stations are: Vienna/Fairfax-GMU, Shady Grove, New Carrollton, Largo Town Center, Franconia-Springfield and Anacostia.

The only way to exit a lot or garage is to pay with a SmarTrip card. But tourists and others say it's inconvenient, unwieldy and unfair. Nonmetered daily parking fees range from $2.50 to $7.75, but the minimum purchase for the reusable SmarTrip card is $10, including $5 for the card.

Catoe said the agency is considering moving some bus stops and adding an underground entrance to the Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter Metro station after two women were struck and killed last month by a Metrobus at Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW.

Catoe and board members also gave a standing ovation to station manager Robert Wormely, a 26-year veteran who helped save a customer's life in December at the Gallery Place-Chinatown station. The man was having a heart attack on the Red Line platform, and Wormely, 56, used a defibrillator, Catoe said. The man, who was also being helped by a rider who was a doctor, responded and was taken to a hospital.

Deegan, attending his last Metro meeting, also received a standing ovation and tributes from the 10 board members present.

Deegan, appointed three years ago by then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), "was the most consistent user of the system," said T. Dana Kauffman, who represents Virginia. Deegan met frequently with frontline workers and "figuratively and literally embraced them," Kauffman said, referring to Deegan's penchant for hugs.

Deegan pushed for Metro to post fare information on farecard machines and sought recognition for bus drivers who drove millions of miles without accidents. When he became chairman in January, he stopped the practice of having a Metro mailroom employee work overtime to take documents to members' homes before meetings, saving Metro about $25,000 a year.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company