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Avedisian to receive $68K severance in termination agreement with RIPTA


Avedisian to receive $68K severance in termination agreement with RIPTA

Apr 16, 2024 | 5:35 pm ET
By Christopher Shea
Avedisian to receive $68K severance in termination agreement with RIPTA
Rhode Island Public Transit Authority CFO Christopher Durand, left, chats with now-former CEO Scott Avedisian ahead of a budget presentation before the House Finance Committee on March 20, 2024. Durand was named the bus agency's interim CEO on Tuesday, April 16, 2024. (Christopher Shea/Rhode Island Current)

PROVIDENCE — Scott Avedisian’s six-year tenure as the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s (RIPTA) CEO officially ended Tuesday as the agency’s Board of Directors voted 7-0 to accept his resignation and termination agreement.

Board members Heather Schey and Marcy Reyes were not present at Tuesday’s special meeting.

The deal includes $67,823 in severance — about a third of which includes compensation for unused sick and vacation leave. Payments will be made in weekly installments of $5,217 beginning on April 25, and will continue through mid-July.

Avedisian is not eligible to collect a RIPTA pension, agency spokesperson Cristy Raposo Perry said in an email Tuesday afternoon. The agreement also includes a clause prohibiting Avedisian and RIPTA from making any disparaging comments about each other.

“Given all the facts surrounding this and the service he provided, and the contract, I think it’s a fair settlement,” Board Chairman Peter Alviti Jr. told reporters after the meeting.

Avedisian, who was not present at Tuesday’s meeting, submitted his letter of resignation to Gov. Dan McKee on April 11 — just eight days after he pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of leaving the scene of a fender bender at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Warwick.

RIPTA CEO Avedisian resigns following hit-and-run charge

Avedisian allegedly smashed his RIPTA-issued SUV into the 2010 Mercedes in front of him, causing the Mercedes to hit the 2013 Toyota Camry in front of it. No injuries were reported, but both drivers told Warwick police they wanted to press charges.

Alviti said this alleged incident likely won’t impact any of RIPTA’s policies surrounding the use of agency-issued vehicles.

“I think agency vehicles are necessary,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll let any one occurrence determine what the future of the policy is.”

Avedisian is scheduled to appear in Kent County District Court for a pretrial hearing Thursday, April 25 — the same day severance payments begin. In his letter of resignation submitted April 11, Avedisian wrote,“I regret that the good work of the employees is being detracted by my actions.” 

“It is sad and troubling that Scott’s employment ends this way,” Board Member Normand Benoit said after Tuesday’s vote.

But Benoit said he appreciated that Avedisian stepped down not long after the controversy began instead of trying to “drag things out.”

“Scott took the high road, to his credit,” he said.

CFO named interim CEO

After approving Avedisian’s exit package, RIPTA board unanimously agreed to elevate Chief Financial Officer Christopher Durand to be the bus agency’s interim leader for the foreseeable future. Durand, who has served in his current position since July 2021, appeared briefly in the back of the room during Tuesday’s meeting, Raposo Perry said.

“As I step into this role at RIPTA, I am grateful for Scott Avedisian’s dedication to RIPTA, as first a board member and then CEO,” Durand said in a statement Tuesday evening. “I look forward to leading the talented team of RIPTA employees, who put incredible effort into providing a valuable service to riders across the state every day.”

“Together, we’ll strive to enhance their experience and build a world-class transit system that can meet the needs of Rhode Islanders for decades to come,” he continued.

Alviti said Durand has “got good knowledge” to take over the agency and has been “very responsive to the board members.”

“The CFO of the organization really is key in that person has direct knowledge of just about all aspects of the organization,” Alviti said. 

Durand’s appointment also came at the recommendation of the advocacy group RI Transit Riders. No timeline was set on how long Durand will serve as interim leader.

“The board will confer with all parties — the legislature and the governor on what form and process will ensue,” Alviti said.

As the RIPTA searches for a permanent leader, transit advocates are calling on the board to make sure the CEO is someone with a mass transit background. Before his appointment in 2018 by then-Gov. Gina Raymond, Avedisian served nearly two decades as the Republican mayor of Warwick.

“The next CEO needs to maintain service and continue to make progress on the initiatives to improve and expand operations that are currently underway,” RI Transit Riders Co-Chairs Amy Glidden and Patricia Raub said in a statement Wednesday.

The group also called on RIPTA’s Board of Directors to include a transit advocate as a public member on the CEO search committee.

Daria Phoebe Brashear, a transit rider from Cranston, had one request for board members as they embark on a search for a permanent leader: All applicants must ride the bus from Aquidneck Island to their interview in Providence.

“So they may speak with the immediate benefit of experience with RIPTA service,” she told the board during public comment. “And further, that if they miss the interview, they be removed from consideration.”

Randall Rose, a member of the Kennedy Plaza Resilience Coalition, told Rhode Island Current he simply wants to see a leader who will stick to RIPTA’s mission of providing public transit.

“People need to have mobility for where they need to go,” he said. 

Alviti told reporters criteria for the search process will be set as the search continues, but he did not rule out looking internally for a permanent CEO.

“We’ve got a great bench here at RIPTA of highly competent professional, smart, energetic folks who want to move this agency into the future in a very positive way,” he said. “I really look forward to the future of the agency.”

This story was updated to include comment from interim CEO Christopher Durand.