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METRO CEO discusses suspension, return to work

Monday, August 08, 2011
METRO announced Thursday that President and CEO George Greanias has been suspended one week without pay

Eyewitness News got a candid one-on-one interview with the embattled leader of METRO, fresh off his suspension for looking at adult websites while at work.

George Greanias was handpicked by Houston Mayor Annise Parker to transform METRO's image in the wake of several other high-profile scandals.

Now, for the first time since the bombshell surfaced about his internet surfing, he sat down with us to explain why he still feels like he's the man for the job.

It's always tough to go back to work after a week off. It's even tougher if you were caught looking at adult websites while in the office and you're the boss.

"Number one, I was shocked. Number two, I was embarrassed. Ultimately, with the public discussion, I was humiliated. I think those are three good adjectives," Greanias said.

But he's not excusing what he did.

"There was nothing right about it," he said. "And again, it was a violation and rather than try to make excuses about it, I need to just say what it was. It was wrong. But I'm proud of the fact that the agency did not try to hide it, did not try to mask it. Nobody needed to drag it out of us and, as painful as it's been, I'd much rather we handle it this way than to try and sweep it under the rug."

Very little was left unsaid. The board of directors, when announcing the suspension, even released a list of the adult websites.

"Most of these were gay websites you were looking at. Do you feel like you were outed by this whole situation?" we asked.

"No. I feel like I did something terribly stupid," Greanias answered. "Certainly, in some people's minds, it will probably raise questions. But what I've learned after some 30-odd years in public life, people talk about you all the time. I can't stop that. I'm not going to try and stop that, but I think that verges on the personal. I'm just going to leave it there."

Greanias says the bottom line is why he chose not to resign, even though some critics thought he should.

"In terms of effectiveness, the best thing you can do is watch the results. I think that's why the board asked me to stay," Greanias said. "It's my job to confirm their confidence in me."

Below is the full text of a statement Greanias released Monday morning:

    "I want to address my recent suspension and the embarrassing and difficult situation I brought upon myself. Let me start by saying that I am ready to get back to work today. My mission is to deliver the best transportation system in America for our riders, taxpayers, employees and all our citizens.

    I made a terrible mistake by not only violating METRO policy, but also by letting down everyone in this agency and the public. There was no excuse for my behavior and I won't offer one. I broke our policy and I broke trust with METRO employees and the public. I am truly sorry and apologize to every METRO employee, every METRO board member, elected officials, stakeholders, every METRO rider and to the public. I take full responsibility and have accepted my suspension without pay as appropriate and justified.

    The best way I know how to redeem myself is to deliver better transportation that provides easier commutes and helps build a stronger economy. That's been my goal since I got here, and it remains my goal. The hallmark values of the New METRO are transparency and accountability. We work every day to solve problems -- and that includes acknowledging problems so that we can solve them.

    I am deeply saddened and embarrassed that I created a problem. My employers have acknowledged that and have been completely open and transparent with the public and the media. I strongly support that. They have imposed a punishment on me that is serious and appropriate. I also strongly support that -- because leaders should be held to a high standard.

    I want to be very clear that while I violated METRO's policy, and I broke trust with METRO and the public, I did not break the law. I understand that breaking trust is just as serious, and I am dedicating myself to making amends for that. The issue here is not my personal life; the issue is my public job. I have accepted my punishment from the board and now I am ready to get back to work and focus on the transportation needs for our community."

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metro, local, melanie lawson
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