Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff (center) takes a ride on light rail from the new Angle Lake Station in Seatac with King County Executive Dow Constantine (left) in September 2016. (Ian Terry / Herald file)

Sound Transit CEO Peter Rogoff (center) takes a ride on light rail from the new Angle Lake Station in Seatac with King County Executive Dow Constantine (left) in September 2016. (Ian Terry / Herald file)

Sound Transit board plans to give CEO a new contract

While praised for overseeing expansion, Peter Rogoff has weathered criticism for his management style.

SEATTLE — A majority of Sound Transit’s governing board voted Thursday to start drafting a new contract with CEO Peter Rogoff for approval by the end of the year.

Details have yet to be worked out.

Rogoff, who was hired to lead the regional transit agency in early 2016, earns $328,545 per year.

“The leadership team under the direction of Mr. Rogoff has put us in a position where we will be able to satisfy what was promised to the voters a few years ago,” said Steilacoom Mayor Ron Lucas, the board’s vice chairman.

Lucas’ comment referred to the $54 billion Sound Transit 3 package voters approved early in Rogoff’s tenure. The package aims to deliver light rail to Everett by 2036 and bus-rapid transit to Lynnwood by 2024, along with new lines to the Eastside, Tacoma and within Seattle.

Light rail is projected to reach Lynnwood by mid-2024, under a previous expansion plan. Rogoff has been lobbying federal transit officials to follow through with more than $1 billion in grant funding needed to build the Lynnwood leg.

The agency covers most of urban Snohomish County from Everett south, as well as more populous parts of King and Pierce counties.

Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling, who has served on the board for most of its existence, lauded Rogoff and former CEO Joni Earl as the agency’s best leaders.

“I’ll be happy to support this motion today,” Earling said.

The action passed 11-2. It authorized forming a subcommittee to draft a contract extension. Several of the board’s 18 members were absent.

Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier and University Place Mayor Kent Keel voted no over concerns, including how the Sound Transit ballot measure increased car-tab fees, also known as motor vehicle excise tax (MVET).

“I get an onslaught of complaints about the taxing, MVET in particular,” Keel said.

While much of the board has praised Rogoff’s handling of the business and political aspects of the organization, he has weathered criticism over his rapport with staff.

Rogoff was the subject of a personnel investigation that came to light early this year. The agency’s board of directors publicly criticized him in March for an “abrupt” and “direct” management style. They denied him a yearly performance bonus at that time.

The investigation revealed that employees had characterized Rogoff’s leadership style as “East Coast, dictatorial, and unnecessarily confrontational.” Some complained informally about Rogoff using profanity at work and making staff feel uncomfortable. The board of directors passed a motion requiring Rogoff to change his demeanor and his relationships with staff.

On Thursday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Sound Transit Board member, supported discussing an extension of Rogoff’s contract with the caveat that he follows through with “cultural changes that he has committed to making.”

Before joining Sound Transit, Rogoff served in high-level federal transit posts under President Barack Obama. He also worked for more than two decades in the U.S. Capitol as a senate staffer.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @NWhaglund.

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