AZ AG requested to investigate Valley Metro CEO

Posted at 2:15 PM, Dec 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-04 16:15:17-05

After hours of debate and accusations of exorbitant expenses to taxpayers, Valley Metro board members have decided to accept the resignation of Chief Executive Officer Steve Banta.

Expense reports obtained by ABC15 show that Banta spent money on a trip to Italy, extended hotel stays, and even a $4,700 dinner in Portland.

"$4,700 for a dinner, pardon me, that's unacceptable on any level," board member Thelda Williams said. 

Banta originally resigned from his position after accusations about his expense account came to light, but then sent a letter to Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton's office taking back his resignation.

In the letter, Banta says he only resigned because of the pressure felt from the mayor's staff and because there was an agreement that he would be paid his salary through April.

Valley Metro board members took into account Banta's second letter, but ultimately didn't believe it.

"Like anyone I was skeptical of anything was occurring," board member Jenn Daniels said. 

After the decision, Banta issues a statement, which said:

"We will continue to work with the Board to appropriately end my employment with Valley Metro and to resolve and discrepancies regarding my expense reporting. I regret that the great work Valley Metro has done developing a world-class regional transit system has been eclipsed by the focus on my expenses. For that I owe our riders, taxpayers, the Board and Valley Metro employees an apology."

Along with accepting Banta's resignation, board members have also ordered an audit of all his expenses.

Members Sal Dicicio, Michael Nowakowski and Jim Waring of the Phoenix City Council are calling for the attorney general to investigate Banta's spending. The trio sent a letter to Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Friday. 

The board will meet again on December 7 to review a separation agreement. 

Eric Anderson, with the Maricopa Association of Governments, was named as the acting CEO while an interim CEO decision is made by the board, which is expected to be made at a December 17 meeting. In 2016, the board will look for a permanent replacement in a nationwide search. 

Also, a statement from the man, Seth Scott, mentioned in a second letter about Banta's accusations:

"After falsifying his expense reports, Steve Banta is now telling false stories about how he was asked to step down. Mr. Banta was told he no longer had Phoenix's support to continue serving as Valley Metro's CEO because of his poor judgment, and was asked to resign. We told Mr. Banta we would support his exit after a brief transition period in a way that saved taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars. Phoenix never attempted to make a 'deal' on behalf of Valley Metro, and Mr. Banta knows it."