Valley Metro CEO resigns, Banta to leave position in January

- Valley Metro's Board of Directors accepted the resignation of CEO Steve Banta. The board met Thursday night for the first time since Banta announced he would be stepping down from his post.

His resignation followed a report that revealed lavish spending of taxpayer money by Banta on fancy dinners and first class flights -- all while making about $265,000 a year.

"As far as policy goes, I know there is some level of entertaining that needs to go on at his level, but I think that maybe, well not maybe, that was excessive," said city of Avondale council member Jim McDonald.

The report states that Banta spent more than $18,000 on a trip to Portland, Oregon with local leaders, including a dinner that cost $4,700 -- something Phoenix city councilwoman Thelda Williams says is unacceptable.

"$4,700 for a dinner, pardon me. It's unacceptable on any level and it was tax payers' money. You don't do that kind of stuff. You don't go to the best places, you don't order liquor, even when it's in violation of policy," she said.

Since his resignation, Banta sent Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton a letter taking it back. He claims he only did it because he felt pressure, but the board accepted his resignation on December 3rd.

Because of the issue, McDonald says new policies will be put in place and two additional audits will be done to help make sure something like this doesn't happen again.

"We thought another audit would be good.. a third party, come outside of the city, so if anybody who wants to look at it and says it might be biased.. will know that it's not and that we've taken the right steps to make sure and that it's non-biased."

Banta did release a statement: "I regret that the great work Valley Metro has done developing a world-class regional transit system has been eclipsed by the focus on my expenses. For that, I owe our riders, taxpayers, the Board and Valley Metro's employees an apology."

It's unclear if Banta will be getting benefits or severance pay. The board will be having a meeting on the issue December 7th.

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