Metro board blasted for losing latest GM candidate

WASHINGTON — Local leaders are blaming Metro’s Board of Directors for losing another potential candidate for general manager.

Last week, sources told WTOP that Neal Cohen was Metro’s pick for the job. On Monday, the agency announced the search is back on for a new GM, and that Cohen was no longer being considered for the gig.

At least two officials claim the Metro board leaked Cohen’s name to the media. Because of that, they say, Cohen decided to forgo the job.

“This board leaked to the press,” said Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. “It is a travesty. If this were private business, this board would be fired.”

The GM search was nearly complete in February 2014, until the three finalists withdrew from consideration out of concern that their names would be public before a selection was made.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Virginia, said the leak is a political ploy to discourage candidates from taking the GM job.

“That suggests real rifts within the governing board and Metro itself that serve no purpose, and frankly make for a very dysfunctional situation that further erode public confidence in Metro.”

“Who’d want this job?” McAuliffe asked. “We need a dynamite leader who can come in and bring new oversight and management experience to get this system back on track.”

Cohen has spent more than 20 years in the airline and aerospace industries. He worked in the 1990s and 2000s for Northwest Airlines and US Airways, leading both airlines through Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganizations. He was an executive vice president and chief financial officer for each, and holds the titles at the contracting company Orbital ATK.

Metro is beset with safety concerns and monetary issues, so “the leaks and petty political sniping … are harming the Metro system and the economy of the region it serves,” McAuliffe said.

Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne found it “extremely disappointing that, once again, the board at Metro has not been able to complete its number-one charge.”

Former general manager Richard Sarles announced his retirement last September, then left the post in January. Jack Requa was named interim general manager at that time.

“Here we go again,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Maryland. “Metro misfires again. It seems to be the gang that can’t shoot straight. They’ve got to get their act together and this is another sign that they’re still floundering.”

WTOP’s Michelle Basch contributed to this report.

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