Legal department shake-up part of SEPTA's 'rethinking' management

Posted: August 03, 2012

One top SEPTA lawyer retired last month and a second remains on paid administrative leave as part of an ongoing shake-up of the legal department at the transit agency.

As The Inquirer reported last week, the agency's former general counsel is being paid about $250,000 through August 2013, although he left SEPTA in March.

The new chief lawyer, James Jordan, said Wednesday the changes were part of a "rethinking" of the management of the department undertaken because of complaints from staff about low morale and favoritism.

Joan Gerson, a deputy general counsel, retired July 1, spokeswoman Jerri Williams said. Gerson, 62, was placed on paid administrative leave in September and continued collecting her $129,298 salary until January, when she was put on unpaid leave.

Gerson said Wednesday she could not talk about the matter because she had signed a confidentiality agreement.

Eileen Giordano Katz, a deputy general counsel, has been on paid administrative leave since September, collecting her $146,848 salary, Jordan said. Katz, 56, remains under an internal SEPTA investigation, but Jordan said no criminal or disciplinary board charges were expected.

Katz could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Nicholas Staffieri was replaced as general counsel in September but will draw his $172,744 salary until August 2013. He said last week his departure was prompted by "different understandings" between him and SEPTA management over certain legal issues.

"At the end of the day, we needed to bring in fresh eyes and ears," Jordan said. "We needed to rethink the management model of the department."

SEPTA management wanted to address low morale and complaints of favoritism in the 24-lawyer department and change the way it operated, Jordan said. SEPTA has hired a consultant for $325,000 for one year to help reshape the department, he said.

The consultant is Conner, Strong & Buckelew of Marlton and Philadelphia. The insurance and consulting firm's two top officials, executive chairman George E. Norcross and chairman Joseph Buckelew, are among the owners of the company that bought The Inquirer this year.

Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or m.

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