Virginia Railway Express accepted the resignation of chief operating officer Pete Sklannik on Friday.
Sklannik was placed on paid administrative leave in August while the VRE Operations Board investigated complaints that he misused $17,000 of company money since taking over at VRE in August 2000.
The terms of resignation agreement between Sklannik and VRE were initially protected under a confidentiality agreement, but after calls from local politicians and media outlets, VRE issued a statement.
Sklannik did not admit to any wrongdoing in the statement. Both sides agreed their working relationship was harmed by the incident, and Sklannik’s resignation was the simplest way to bring the matter to a close.
Former State Delegate David Brickley, a co-founder of Virginia Railway Express, called for more “openness in government.” Brickley represented Dale City in the General Assembly between 1976 and 1998.
“It was my legislation that formed that Virginia Railway,” said Brickley.
“The Virginia Railway Express is a success story for our commuters and it will continue to succeed despite the loss of its current manager,” said Brickley a Democratic candidate for the 31st District seat in the House of Delegates.
“However,” he continued, “I think it’s vitally important that VRE and the Potomac Rappahannock Transportation Commission release the audit report that was performed so that the citizens have a clear understanding of what has happened.”
The PRTC and Northern Virginia Transportation Commission co-own VRE.
VRE recognized its position, decided against withholding details, contacted Sklannik’s attorneys and negotiated a statement, said Sharon Bulova, VRE Operations Board chairman.
Sklannik has moved from the area and could not be reached.
“Last summer the VRE Operations Board initiated an investigation into management issues … involving Mr. Sklannik.” Bulova read from the statement Friday afternoon in a phone interview.
“A thorough review of these matters was initiated and it’s been completed and shared with Mr. Sklannik,” she said.
“The allegations and findings of the investigation consist of approximately $17,000 worth of questionable and inappropriate spending and reimbursement over a three year period of time for items such as cell phone use for personal calls, the use of a car service instead of a VRE vehicle, travel to and from Union Station and local airports that appear to be, at least in part, personal,” she said.
The VRE Operations Board also determined that Sklannik shipped personal items at company expense, obtained fraudulent meal reimbursements and had personal items “framed and mounted for display in office,” Bulova said.
“Mr. Sklannik disputes these allegations,” Bulova said.
“All of these findings were shared with appropriate law enforcement officials and no action has been taken by them and any further action would be at their discretion,” Bulova said.
Sklannik offered to resign when the investigation was completed. VRE accepted.
“Believing that this situation has made it impossible for a positive working relationship to continue,” Bulova read from the statement. “He has offered his resignation effective today.”
“Mr. Sklannik waives any right that he may have to a performance based bonus, severance pay and accrued vacation or any kind of leave,” Bulova said.
Bulova estimated that the value of Sklannik’s unused leave and unclaimed performance-based bonuses at $93,000.
“He actually could have said, ‘As far as a performance-based bonus, I actually did all of the stuff that I was required to do,’ ” Bulova said.
Ridership on VRE increased from 10,000 daily trips to 14,000 daily trips during Sklannik’s tenure.
“He could have come back and said, ‘Wait a minute. I should be paid, whether you agree with this other stuff, which I dispute. I’m due this bonus,’ ” she said.
Sklannik might have and fought for severance pay as well, Bulova said.
The best course, VRE decided, was to allow Sklannik to leave, compare the $93,000 in unclaimed severance pay and benefits against the losses of $17,000 and call it even.
“The VRE Operations Board and Commission believes this more than satisfies any claim that we may have for restitution and we’ve accepted his resignation,” she concluded.
“We feel that we’ve been responsible. We accepted his resignation. It could have gone a number of different ways,” Bulova said.
“Mr. Sklannik states that his decision not to continue employment should not be considered an admission as to any of the allegations and he just wishes to bring this matter to a conclusion,” Bulova continued from the statement.
Delegate L. Scott Lingamfelter, R-31st District, sits on the governing board of PRTC and was the lone vote against the agreement with Sklannik.
“There is a tougher sanction that I would have preferred,” Lingamfelter said.
Lingamfelter said he wants to?speak out about the matter but he is barred from disclosing details because of the confidentiality agreement, even though he voted against it. Lingamfelter faces Brickley in November for the 31st District seat.
Chris Newman contributed to this report.