TransLink replaces Jarvis as CEO on eve of referendum

Jarvis stays as advisor while Doug Allen takes over as interim CEO, board chair cites need to restore public confidence

Former TransLink CEO Ian Jarvis.

TransLink’s board of directors has replaced CEO Ian Jarvis as head of the regional transportation authority in a bid to shore up flagging public confidence going into a critical spring referendum on transit expansion.

Jarvis will stay on at his regular pay as an adviser until his contract expires June 1 of 2016 but was replaced Wednesday by interim CEO Doug Allen, who will serve for six months while TransLink seeks a permanent new CEO.

The decision to keep Jarvis on avoids paying him severance but means TransLink will effectively pay for two CEOs for more than a year.

“We are not particularly happy about paying two CEOs for a year and a half,” board chair Marcella Szel said.

“However, in the circumstances, it was the board’s view the right thing to do was to change leadership and to change leadership now.”

Szel would not say if she hopes the replacement of Jarvis will boost the chances of a Yes outcome in the referendum to create a 0.5 per cent sales tax in Metro Vancouver for transit upgrades.

She said TransLink will face a “an entirely new world” after the plebiscite regardless of whether a Yes vote enables it to start rolling out the promised $7.5-billion expansion plan or a No outcome leaves it working within a frozen budget as the region’s population rises.

“Whatever the outcome of the referendum, this organization needs new and strong leadership.”

Allen will be paid a flat $35,000 a month while serving as interim CEO and won’t be in the running for the permanent job.

He was CEO of InTransitBC, the firm that built and operates the Canada Line, and he has extensive experience as a senior government manager and management consultant.

Allen has been sent into replacement or restructuring roles before by the province, once serving as interim president of BC Ferries.

“I will be extracting efficiencies from every level of the organization,” Allen told reporters, promising accountability and active management.

Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, who now have seats on the TransLink board, were part of the board vote on removing Jarvis, calling it a crucial “first step” in rebuilding trust in TransLink.

“This change will allow us to redouble our efforts to win the transportation and transit referendum,” Hepner said.

“We heard loud and clear in this campaign change was required,” added Port Coquitlam Mayor Greg Moore.

Transportation Minister Todd Stone said swapping CEOs sends a critical message TransLink is under the “new management” he and others felt was needed.

“The distractions that have often plagued that corporation and perhaps been a bit too much of a narrative in the early days of this campaign, needed to be addressed,” Stone said.

Doug Allen is the new interim CEO of TransLink for the next six months.    Photo: Jeff Nagel / Black Press

Allen’s priorities will include getting the troubled Compass card system to work properly and completing fixes that flowed from SkyTrain outages last summer.

Jarvis received total compensation of $468,000 in 2013, which included his base salary of $319,244 plus executive bonuses that also became targets for TransLink critics.

It’s unclear if Jarvis will be paid only the base salary as advisor or is still eligible for bonuses. A TransLink spokesperson said that may be determined at the next board meeting March 30.

Jarvis took over in 2009 after former CEO Tom Prendergast returned to the U.S. following a series of failed negotiations between mayors and the province to secure more funding.

Jarvis eliminated deficits at TransLink by overseeing a major cost-cutting drive, which included reforms to the bus system to serve more people and pull in more revenue at the same cost.

No campaigner Jordan Bateman called the CEO shuffle “a piece of the solution” but said “dramatic” governance changes are needed at TransLink, including an end to secret board meetings and removal of most executives.

He said referendum campaign opposition forced the removal of Jarvis and said it’s a sign that voting No is “the way to get this organization changed completely.”

– with files from Tom Fletcher