“The ROCC will report directly to the general manager through Andy Off, who will work with me on a day-to-day basis to reform the control center,” Wiedefeld wrote.
Off was Metro’s assistant general manager for seven years before he took a consulting job in October 2018. He returned to Metro this past spring.
Off was a key player in Metro’s year-long SafeTrack maintenance program, a more than $110 million maintenance overhaul that included temporary station and line-segment shutdowns. The project was a critical part of the transit agency’s renewed focus on safety after years of safety failures, delays and accidents, including a 2015 fire outside L’Enfant Plaza that killed one passenger and injured several others from smoke inhalation.
Now, Off is in charge of refocusing the ROCC toward the same goal after a blistering audit by the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission cited 21 safety or workplace failures. Among issues listed in the audit: workplace sexual and racial harassment, threats, dangerously short staffing, orders to ignore safety procedures, overworked and fatigued employees, and managerial attempts to manipulate or obstruct the audit.
On Wednesday, Metro temporarily reassigned Lisa Woodruff, Metro’s senior vice president for rail services, to become a technical adviser while an outside law firm reviews allegations that she may have tried to coach employees into saying favorable things to auditors about the ROCC. The reassignment followed Metro replacing ROCC director Deltrin Harris, moving him to a post overseeing the Silver, Orange and Blue lines. Allison Hall-King, the former supervisor of those lines, was named interim ROCC director while Metro conducts a national search for a permanent successor.
Hall-King will now report to Off, as will Jayme Johnson, director of change management, who has been tasked with working with employees in the ROCC to change its culture, Wiedefeld’s memo said.
The memo did not say why Leader would no longer oversee the ROCC. Leader worked for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority for nearly 30 years before retiring in 2015 as the top official in charge of operating the nation’s largest subway system.
After leaving, he worked briefly as a consultant for Metro helping reorganize the rail system before Wiedefeld hired him in 2016 as Metro’s chief operating officer.
His initial salary was $275,000. Besides all rail operations, he oversaw the Metro Transit Police Department.
Metro did not make Leader available for comment, and an email was not returned.
The safety commission’s 50-page audit highlighted deep cultural, communication and structural flaws within the hierarchy of the ROCC, which controls Metro’s rail system and is in charge of speeds, signals and emergencies. Many of the issues have been recurring since the 1980s, according to the audit, despite multiple federal investigations, reviews and mandates after costly or deadly accidents.
Despite the safety commission calling on Metro to fix problems starting late last year, auditors say managers and top officials have been resistant.
“The culture fostered by ROCC and [Office of Rail Transportation] leadership is toxic and antithetical to safety and other standards,” the audit said.
On Thursday, Metro board members said they are growing impatient waiting for improvements in the ROCC, with one board member calling for changes in the leadership structure of the nearly 45-year-old transit agency.
Adding to Metro’s troubles, board members on Wednesday will consider layoffs of non-unionized employees, shortened Metrorail operating hours, longer wait times and other belt-tightening as they seek to cut more than $200 million from this fiscal year’s operating budget because of a lack of fare revenue during the pandemic and dwindling federal aid dollars.