Mayor calls for reforms at TARC to address allegations raised against ex-director

February 24, 2020

At today’s meeting of TARC’s Board of Directors and its interim executive directors, Mayor Greg Fischer called for several changes at the transit agency to address issues raised in recent harassment allegations against the agency’s former Executive Director, Ferdinand Risco. 

Speaking after an executive session of the board, the Mayor noted that while the investigation into the “abhorrent allegations” against the former director Risco is ongoing, “a confidential, high-level preliminary update” during the closed session “has made it clear to me, TARC’s interim executive directors and its Board that there were serious problems in the administrative offices here.”

Risco, who resigned on Feb. 12 after less than a year on the job, had, in his short tenure, “created an unacceptable and wholly inappropriate atmosphere,” the Mayor said. “Once the disturbing allegations were made known to my office, we acted swiftly and, as has been reported, if Mr. Risco had not resigned, I would have fired him.”

The Mayor added that if the ongoing independent investigation into TARC uncovers evidence of wrongdoing by others, they also will be removed.

After thanking Louisville businesswomen Laura Douglas and Margaret Handmaker for responding to the call to help as interim TARC leaders, the Mayor outlined specific steps needed “to right this ship.”

  • Continue the contract with Dinsmore Shohl, the law firm that the County Attorney contracted with, at the Mayor’s behest, to investigate the allegations against Mr. Risco.
  • Establish an anonymous tip line for TARC employees, customers and residents to confidentially share any concerns about TARC operations.
  • Hire an interim in-house general counsel and search for a permanent counsel, who among other duties, will monitor the new tip line.
  • Amend the board bylaws to include a permanent committee structure, and to add the Mayor or his designee to the board.
  • Restore a past practice of having senior directors provide monthly reports to the board before each meeting.
  • Authorize the co-executive directors to contract with a search firm to begin a national search for a permanent executive director.

Board chair Mary Morrow and interim Co-Director Douglas said the board would move ahead with those recommendations, and that Handmaker also would begin a transition review of all TARC financial transactions.

Mayor Fischer closed his remarks by thanking the TARC bus operators, service crew, and administrative staff for keeping their focus on daily operations during this leadership strife, adding that, “No one should ever fear harassment at work, and those that create those conditions will be dealt with swiftly and justly.

“What happened here at TARC is unacceptable,” he continued, “and TARC’s employees deserve better. I demand that, as do TARC’s customers and the citizens of Louisville. A quality public transit system is critical to our city, and I am committed to seeing that leadership focus restored.”