Baker has ‘healthy exchange’ with outgoing T chief
A day after she announced her surprise resignation, and amid ongoing service disruptions, MBTA general manager Beverly A. Scott spoke for the first time with Governor Charlie Baker in a meeting Thursday — which ended with a cordial embrace.
Both the Baker administration and Scott allies worked Thursday to minimize speculation that the turmoil at the T — and a lack of communication between senior officials — had exacerbated the already dire public transportation shutdowns and delays playing out in and around Boston.
After meeting at the MBTA’s Dewey Square offices, Baker said he and Scott had a “healthy exchange of views” on how to address the challenges facing the struggling transit system. A Baker adviser described the meeting as “very cordial.”
The meeting with Scott came after Baker criticized the T’s performance amid an unprecedented wave of snowstorms that have hamstrung rail service, and Scott’s subsequent vigorous defense of the agency. Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, and Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack had been scheduled to meet with Scott to discuss operations before Scott handed in her resignation.
On Thursday, T officials joined Scott, who delivered a presentation similar to the one she gave to the board that oversees the transportation system, outlining the agency’s deep fiscal problems, and how they relate to service, said two officials briefed on the meeting.
Scott fielded questions from Baker, Polito, and Baker’s chief of staff, Steven Kadish, the official said, adding that there was no discussion of extending or shortening Scott’s plan to stay on until April 11.
Then, at the end of the meeting, Scott and Baker hugged, two officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details of a closed-door meeting.
“It was a good meeting with a healthy exchange of views,” Baker, who also toured the T control center, told reporters after the meeting. “We got a lot of dialogue about things that we think we can help them with and what they’re up against.”
On Thursday, Baker told reporters the meeting was simply a debrief that quickly went into how the state could support them through the decision-making process of getting the T running if there is another storm this weekend.
When asked if he should have spoken earlier with Scott, he said, “In hindsight, sure, maybe I should have talked to the general manager.”
But he also said he did not believe the communication would have changed much.
Baker, who has said he had been surprised by Scott’s resignation, again maintained that he did not force her out. The governor had criticized the T’s performance Monday, after the T announced that it would shut down the system from Monday evening through Tuesday.
Tim Buckley, a spokesman for Baker, said the governor did not discuss the next steps in finding a new general manager. The decision lies with the MassDOT board, Buckley said.
Robin Chase, one of the board members, said the board has planned an emergency closed-door session Friday to talk about finding a new general manager.
Chase, who initiated a motion for a vote of confidence shortly before Scott made her plans public, said she had been completely surprised by Scott’s decision.
She said Scott told them of the decision in a closed-door session Wednesday, after several speakers praised her work during a public board meeting. Chase said Scott noted that her contract was up in December, and that she had family issues to attend to.
Scott did not mention the governor’s comments about his disappointment in the T’s performance when she announced her decision to board members, Chase said.
“I know she’s incredibly committed to her work and what was just fascinating to me is the speed at which supporters came out spontaneously to speak in support of her,” she said.