Splendid? Bumbling former METRO police chief Tom Lambert gets permanent CEO gig

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The METRO board announced Thursday, with great hyperbole, that interim CEO (and former police chief) Tom Lambert would be getting the job permanently:

Board member Burt Ballanfant, who made the motion to open negotiations with Lambert, said the interim president had “done a splendid job.”

If by splendid, someone means that Lambert has shown himself to be a cut above Shirley DeLibero, the ineffectual (but world-class slick!) Frank “Procurement Disaster” Wilson, or George “Boy Porn Surfer” Greanias, then yes, we suppose the former bumbling police chief has been “splendid.”

Ongoing issues under Garcia/Spieler/Lambert-led METRO

Former METRO police chief Tom Lambert, now METRO CEO (photo courtesy of METRO)
Former METRO police chief Tom Lambert, now METRO CEO (photo courtesy of METRO)

On the other hand, in Lambert’s short time as interim CEO, METRO has seen two fairly significant procurement snafus (the signature downtown station fiasco, and ongoing issues getting trains for the expanded system — to be fair, this mess began under Frank Wilson, but predecessors cannot be blamed forever for ongoing problems), not to mention the revelation that METRO can’t collect tolls it is owed, and that the organization is “re-imagining” transit in a way that will create transit-deserts.


Perhaps “splendid” means that Gilbert Garcia and Christof Spieler, who haven’t especially proven themselves qualified to run a large transit agency, will nevertheless continue to run the show through Lambert (who, in likely contrast with any transit professional, probably will be just fine with that).

Trial balloon to kill search floated in December; METRO still has to pay

The Chronicle’s transportation secretarial journalist indicated that this move was coming in a post earlier this week:

Since the search resumed after the election, there has been speculation officials wanted Lambert to stay on.

Our cursory search did not turn up a single instance of the Chronicle’s transportation secretarial journalist reporting on any such speculation for the newspaper.

Of course, we suspected that METRO officials had decided to push Lambert as CEO when they floated the idea at one of the Chronicle editorial board’s secretive meetings, as conveyed by Bill King back in December:

Lambert has more than met the test as the interim boss. He clearly has a good grasp of the issues facing Metro, seems to work well with the current board and – from what I hear – has helped restore morale at the agency. Metro’s board has said that they intend to conduct a national search, but will consider Lambert as a candidate. A national search at this juncture is an unnecessary distraction for Metro, especially as the agency is conducting the re-imagining project.

Much of that column — including the graf above — suggested that Mr. King had suffered some sort of head injury just before Christmas (we certainly hope he has recovered!), but the Houston Way trial balloon clearly was being floated (even drawing support from the Chronicle‘s designated “METRO critic”).

METRO will, of course, have to pay the search firm for its efforts (in late December, METRO spokesman Jerome Gray told me that the fee would be one-third of the annual compensation package, probably around $100,000) — just more wasted public money.


Indeed, here are a few of our (splendid?) blog posts from those fun days when Lambert was the head Keystone Cop for METRO: Chief Lambert receives awards for METRO’s security preparedness!, METRO’s multi-faceted approach to Park and Pillage security, METRO PD: We can’t police bus stops, but we’ve got sharpshooters and a bomb robot!, METRO deploys elite counterterror unit.

Kevin Whited
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Kevin Whited is co-founder and publisher of blogHOUSTON. Follow him on twitter: @PubliusTX