SEPTA's ex-chief attorney gets 18-month severance deal

Posted: July 28, 2012

SEPTA's former chief attorney will continue to get his $172,744-a-year salary for 18 months, although he has not been at work since March.

Nicholas Staffieri was replaced as general counsel in September by James B. Jordan, SEPTA's assistant general manager for public safety. Staffieri was named counsel to the SEPTA board, which previously had been part of his job as general counsel.

In March, the counsel to the board position was eliminated, and Staffieri was named of counsel and left the transit agency's Center City headquarters. "Of counsel" is a title often used by law firms or corporations to describe a part-time or consulting role for lawyers.

Staffieri, 63, will receive his regular biweekly pay of $6,644 until August 2013, spokeswoman Jerri Williams said.

That amounts to $259,116 for the 18 months from March to August 2013.

SEPTA board chairman Pasquale T. "Pat" Deon Sr. said Staffieri was familiar with a number of ongoing legal issues involving SEPTA and could still be called on to do legal work for the authority.

"He has a lot of institutional memory," Deon said. "It's entirely appropriate."

The payments include unused vacation time, Deon said.

"He was the kind of guy who never took vacation," Deon said.

The SEPTA board was not asked to approve the arrangement with Staffieri but was notified of it, Deon said.

Staffieri, who had been general counsel since 2000, has not been asked to do any work for SEPTA since leaving in March, Williams said.

Staffieri said he left SEPTA because of "different understandings" between him and SEPTA management over certain legal issues.

He said "there could be more work for me to do" on issues involving the recent purchase of new railcars or lease-leaseback issues.

He described the payment arrangement as a settlement agreement, and said the 18-month payout, rather than a lump sum, "helps SEPTA's cash flow."

Staffieri's package is similar to the one given to his predecessor, G. Roger Bowers, who got an 18-month, $224,658 payout when he resigned in 2000 after a lawsuit over a serious escalator accident revealed serious flaws in the agency's legal department.

On Thursday, SEPTA was recognized by the American Public Transportation Association as the best large transit agency in North America, partly because of its strong financial management.


Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.

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