SANDAG’s executive director announces retirement by end of year amid scandal

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) —With his contract under review amid scandal, the longtime head of SANDAG is stepping down.

Gary Gallegos, executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments, says he’s leaving the transportation agency at the end of the year.

As one would expect, SANDAG’s longtime leader and a fixture in transportation even before that, is denying he’s the fall guy here, but knowledgeable observers would say otherwise about Gary Gallegos’ announcement he’s retiring in December.

The San Diego Association of Governments is mired in a scandal of its own making and former union leader, now Sacramento politician Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher is leading an effort to overhaul how it is governed.

On Tuesday, Gallegos, SANDAG’s executive director since 2001, told the U-T’s editorial board he’s stepping down at the end of the year, despite the fact his contract runs through 2020.

Last week, an independent investigation found the region’s lead transportation planning agency misinformed voters about November’s measure A, which failed to get a two-thirds vote.

A subsequent investigation by the Voice of San Diego informed the public that SANDAG officials overestimated how much money a half cent sales tax increase would generate for transportation funding by several billion dollars.

The independent investigation, ordered by SANDAG’s board, found that Gallegos and his former chief economist didn’t do this intentionally, but found a culture among higher up’s that ignored concerns among staff members that the figures might be incorrect.

The investigation, released last Friday,  also found that Gallegos oversaw the hiding and potential destruction of emails when inquiries were made by media  before the election.

SANDAG’s board then ordered a re-evaluation of Gallegos’s contract, and a forensic’s investigation into the deleted emails.

In a statement, Gallegos said "I apologize for not announcing the news sooner, meaning his retirement, "I wanted to discuss the announcement with board leadership. I was able to do that today."

He told the U-T editorial board it’s time for someone else to lead in raising money for highways and transit, and that he had previously planned to retire in December.

Categories: Local San Diego News