Penn Pike CEO Roger Nutt retires after 19 months because of heart problems, he says
By Peter Samuel
2012-10-09: Roger E Nutt chief executive officer of the Pennsylvania Turnpike since 15 March 2011 is retiring. He said in a letter to commissioners that especially over the last few weeks he had "felt tired and stressed and not able to perform as your CEO at the level that should be expected of me."
In the last year he said he'd been treated for atrial fibrillation and a leaking heart valve. He is 72 years old.
Atrial fibrillation is irregular heartbeats due to deficiencies in the natural electrical stimulus to the main heart muscles and is treated in severe cases by implantation of electrical leads to the heart chambers down a major artery connected to a pacemaker device placed just under the skin near the collar bone.
The pacemaker monitors natural heartbeats and when they become weak or absent sends the heart muscles battery-powered electrical pulses to compensate.
(I write from personal experience as I have had a pacemaker since 2008 - editor.)
The heart has four one-way valves or flaps that open and close to advance blood flow generated by the contraction and expansion of the ventricles. Leakage at valves allows back flow of blood and reduces heart function. Depending on severity treatment ranges from drugs through surgery and artificial valves. (My valves are good - editor.)
Nutt said of his heart problems: "I have decided for my longterm health, it is best I resign. . ."
Reports of hitting on women
Two apparently independent sources told TOLLROADSnews today not-for-attribution that there were complaints of sexual harassment against Nutt at the Turnpike, and that this was a major factor in his retirement. One said an official investigation of the complaints was under way. That has not been confirmed, and so far no comment is forthcoming.
Nutt's performance before state legislators two weeks ago (September 25) was vigorous and forceful, providing no hint of the fatigue and stress, he reports. He was more combative than 51 year old President Obama in the first presidential debate!
Nutt says in his letter the Turnpike has a "great staff" which is "as good as any I have worked with during my long career." Nutt comes out of New Jersey where he had senior positions including executive director at both the Turnpike Authority and the Highway Authority (which ran the Garden State Parkway before it was brought under the Turnpike.)
In his 19 months in the top job at the Pennsylvania Turnpike he cites as accomplishments:
1. a 50% expansion of the capital program to provide needed expansion and rehabilitation
2. a new professional services procurement process combining the best of professional evaluation and policy flexibility
3. an office of diversity to ensure adequate women and minorities are hired
4. an office of compliance to conduct investigations of alleged wrongdoing and audit against fraud or abuse
Defense of Act 44
The hearing on the finances of the Turnpike in the state legislature September 25 seems likely to be Nutt's last major public appearance as CEO. Nutt forcefully rejected allegations of the Turnpike's dire financial future under state Act 44 and its requirements that the Turnpike provide PennDOT with $450m/year of financial support for 50 years.
Nutt supported the state legislature's 2007 move to block privatization of the Turnpike as proposed by then state governor Ed Rendell.
The state auditor general Jack Wagner has several times said the arrangements made by the legislature at that time have put the Turnpike on the road to bankruptcy, and called for the repeal of Act 44 and its $450m/year drain on the Turnpike.
The Turnpike has been borrowing each year to make the payments.
Nutt said contrary to Wagner the Turnpike's Act 44 financing plan is sound.
He was noticeably more confident in support of Act 44 than state secretary of transportation Barry Schoch who said there were risks in the Act 44 financing plan.
Tribute from chairman
Commission chairman William K Lieberman is quoted in a press release today:
"I know I speak for my fellow Commissioners and the entire Turnpike family in recognizing Roger's leadership role in advancing the future of the Turnpike. We appreciate his dedication and commitment to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission and wish him the best of health and happiness for a long and enjoyable retirement."
Nutt's resignation is tendered effective October 31 and he says he will work from his home for his remaining three weeks as CEO. Craig Shuey, chief operating officer will be acting CEO from November 1 until a permanent replacement is found.
copy of Nutt's letter of resignation and acceptance letter from commission chair Lieberman:
reports of public statements on the Turnpike financial viability under Act 44: