Manassas Journal Messenger | VRE board investigating chief officer

The Virginia Railway Express governing board placed the commuter line’s chief operating officer on paid administrative leave Wednesday while it investigates a complaint against him.

The VRE Operations Board was made aware of “management and personnel” issues, prompting the board to put chief operating officer Pete Sklannik on leave while it begins to look into the allegations, said Fairfax County Supervisor Sharon Bulova, who is chairman of the operations board.

The VRE Operations Board, made up of area elected officials, does not have an August meeting, but the allegations were serious enough for the members to exchange phone calls Wednesday. VRE staff were informed of their action in an afternoon meeting Thursday.

“We learned of certain allegations and I think it’s prudent upon the board to check them out and see where it goes,” said John Grzejka, Manassas commissioner of revenue and treasurer on the VRE board.

Bulova and Grzejka would not specify what the allegations concern. Sklannik did not return a call made to his home late Thursday.

Assistant Chief Operating Officer Dale Zehner will be acting chief.

Sklannik took the helm of a rapidly growing commuter line in August 2000, overseeing its continued growth from more than 10,000 daily trips then to nearly 14,000 trips this summer.

The commuter line has undertaken creating a new strategic plan so that its self-described “mom and pop” organization can adapt to meet the needs of its growth.

The system, with lines to Manassas and Fredericksburg, has an aging fleet in need of partial replacement, ongoing capacity upgrades on the CSX line to Fredericksburg so that more service can be added, studies of whether to extend service to Bealeton in Fauquier or north to Gainesville and Haymarket, and parking shortages up and down both lines.

A stopgap measure for car capacity was refurbishing used Gallery cars from Chicago, but these bi-level cars have limited lifespans.

Federal dollars have been secured for new parking in Manassas and Burke, but new parking elsewhere gets quickly snatched up: Broad Run with 696 spaces at 107 percent usage and Manassas Park with a doubling to 677 spaces already at 84 percent.

Sklannik came to VRE from Metropolitan Transit Authority, New York’s Long Island commuter railroad, where he was director of market development.

Staff writer Chris Newman can be reached at (703) 878-8062.

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