Sound Transit CEO gets a three-year extension and a raise

CEO Peter Rogoff is overseeing the largest mass-transit expansion in the nation, local leaders say.

SEATTLE — Sound Transit board members agreed overwhelmingly Thursday to give the agency’s chief executive a contract extension of at least three years.

Under the package, CEO Peter Rogoff’s base salary would rise by 11 percent, to $365,000.

That’s before factoring in other forms of compensation. The contract would pay about $70,000 in annual retirement benefits. Rogoff would be eligible for a yearly bonus based on his performance.

“I think the CEO has done all of the things we have asked him to do,” said Everett City Councilman Paul Roberts, who sits on Sound Transit’s 18-member board. “We will be asking more. I think the contract is an appropriate reflection of that work.”

Roberts and others said Sound Transit is in the midst of the largest transit expansion in the nation. That includes a new light-rail leg that’s supposed to reach Everett in 2036, along with other segments to Tacoma, Eastside cities and new destinations within Seattle. The compensation was based, in part, on the pay for other executives who oversee other mass transit systems in major metro areas.

Sound Transit covers denser parts of Snohomish County, from Everett south, along with more urban parts of King and Pierce counties.

The board voted 14-1 to approve Rogoff’s contract.

Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier cast the no vote. Dammeier reminded his colleagues that they took action early this year to improve Rogoff’s problematic behavior toward staff. He raised concerns about capital cost overruns. He noted that the CEO would be receiving triple the 3.5 percent raise that other Sound Transit employees can expect.

“I don’t see how this is in the best interest of this agency and I certainly don’t see how this is in the best interest of the residents of Pierce County,” Dammeier said.

Three one-year extensions could potentially take Rogoff’s contract through 2024, unless he or the board decides to end the relationship.

Over the first four years of the extension, Rogoff would receive a severance equal to a year of salary and benefits. During the final two years, the severance payout would go down to six months of compensation.

The board hired Rogoff three years ago. He previously held high-level positions in the U.S. Department of Transportation under President Barack Obama. He also worked for more than two decades as a U.S. Senate staffer.

Rogoff has overseen a flurry of activity during his tenure. Many potential milestones —and obstacles— loom in the years ahead.

Last week, Sound Transit opened a bus-only shoulder lane on southbound I-5 through Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace. The extra travel lane is supposed to help transit riders bypass up to 3 miles of congestion during the peak morning commutes.

Next week, the agency plans to open a new 447- stall parking garage at Northgate. Construction continues on a new light-rail station next to the north Seattle retail hub, with service expected to start in 2021.

Light rail would reach farther north to Lynnwood in mid-2024, if the current timeline holds. The same year, a bus rapid-transit line along I-405 is due to serve Lynnwood, the Eastside and Burien.

Other factors could sidetrack those plans.

Initiative promoter Tim Eyman is close to qualifying a 2019 ballot measure that aims to cap car tab fees at $30 and stop Sound Transit from collecting motor vehicle excise taxes. Eyman on Wednesday turned in most of the required signatures for Initiative 976 and promised to deliver more.

Rogoff, at Thursday’s meeting, said the passage of that initiative would force Sound Transit to cancel or postpone major projects.

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

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