Off the Track

Never mind the upcoming opening of DART's CityPlace light rail stop; the events that have DART employees buzzing lately are unfolding in Houston, where former DART exec Shirley DeLibero, now head of that city's Metropolitan Transit Authority, is demonstrating how not to handle a sudden career crisis.

For weeks now, DART employees have been logging on to the Houston Chronicle's Web site and feasting on the details about DeLibero's painful journey through Mudville. DeLibero's troubles began in October when the Chronicle reported that there were "questions" about some minor damage to her Metro-issued 1999 Buick Park Avenue, which comes complete with a driver. DeLibero initially claimed the damage was the result of "normal wear and tear." Truth is, DeLibero and her driver had been in an accident following an evening of dining.

The Chronicle got its hands on a copy of DeLibero's expense reports and discovered that in February DeLibero and her driver had racked up a $67.12 bill at a Houston restaurant--suspiciously high for the joint unless you include, oh, appetizers or--wink, wink--drinks. To make matters worse, the paper revealed that an insurance adjuster determined that the $900 damage to the Buick was the result of a collision.

DeLibero never reported the accident, though she later acknowledged it and said she couldn't recall whether she had any drinks the night of the wreck. (In the course of reporting the story, the Chronicle also discovered that Metro policy allows its employees to drink and drive so long as their blood-alcohol level doesn't rise above .02, which in Buzz's experience is about one-fifth of your typical Dallas bus passenger's level.)

DART employees knew DeLibero's train had really derailed when a Chronicle reporter called DART for information about her reputation in Dallas. The paper had discovered she never earned two associate's degrees that she listed on her résumé.

"The general feeling here was, gee, isn't that too bad, because the woman was more than qualified for the job," says one DART executive. Though DeLibero left DART some 10 years ago, she is still remember as a diligent and hard-working deputy director.

So DeLibero is not exactly doing Dallas proud. Consider it payback for the loads of smog Houston has sent our way lately.

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams

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