Amtrak terminates William Crosbie, chief operating officer; abolishes position

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WASHINGTON — Today Amtrak announced the elimination of the position of chief operating officer, saying in an internal advisory to employees that current COO Bill Crosbie "will be leaving Amtrak" today, Oct. 22. The directive added that operating vice presidents previously reporting to Crosbie would now report to president Joseph Boardman.

“Bill has made important contributions to Amtrak in the seven years he’s been here, and his oversight of the many facets of the operation has supported Amtrak through a period of strong ridership and demand for our services,” Boardman said.

Crosbie, formerly an operations manager of Toronto's transit system, was hired by former president David Gunn shortly after he arrived on the property. Reached by phone at his home in Nova Scotia today, Gunn commented that in his opinion, Amtrak's move in eliminating the position was "extremely unwise."

Gunn pointed out, "You have to have somebody in charge who is technically competent to make a decision on the operating side to arbitrate between the transportation, mechanical, and engineering departments." Gunn says he doubts that Boardman, a former New York state transportation official, had such expertise.

"Suppose the wire comes down at Aberdeen (Md.) in the middle of the night. Are they going to call Joe Boardman in the middle of the night and ask him what to do?” Gunn asked rhetorically. “Maybe engineering wants to shut down the whole railroad for 8 or 12 hours — is that the best decision to make at the time? These are critical decisions that cannot be decided at the president's level, but someone who can weigh the alternatives. Eliminating the position," Gunn continued, “flies in the face of the railroad operations."

Gunn would not speculate why the position was eliminated, but he did point out that Amtrak did the same thing with the head of labor relations, eliminating that position after Gunn was fired by the David Laney-chaired Amtrak board of directors in 2006.

"I question why the current board would think this is a good idea," Gunn said.

Crosbie couldn’t be reached for comment.

UPDATE: Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm clarified that the decision isn’t specifically to terminate Mr. Crosbie, but to eliminate his position. “Mr. Boardman feels at this point in time that the key folks who have reported up through the COO: the VP for transportation, VP for environmental health and safety, chief engineer, chief mechanical officer; are all good people, they can do their jobs, and can report to Mr. Boardman.”
WASHINGTON — Today Amtrak announced the elimination of the position of chief operating officer, saying in an internal advisory to employees that current COO Bill Crosbie "will be leaving Amtrak" today, Oct. 22. The directive added that operating vice presidents previously reporting to Crosbie would now report to president Joseph Boardman.

“Bill has made important contributions to Amtrak in the seven years he’s been here, and his oversight of the many facets of the operation has supported Amtrak through a period of strong ridership and demand for our services,” Boardman said.

Crosbie, formerly an operations manager of Toronto's transit system, was hired by former president David Gunn shortly after he arrived on the property. Reached by phone at his home in Nova Scotia today, Gunn commented that in his opinion, Amtrak's move in eliminating the position was "extremely unwise."

Gunn pointed out, "You have to have somebody in charge who is technically competent to make a decision on the operating side to arbitrate between the transportation, mechanical, and engineering departments." Gunn says he doubts that Boardman, a former New York state transportation official, had such expertise.

"Suppose the wire comes down at Aberdeen (Md.) in the middle of the night. Are they going to call Joe Boardman in the middle of the night and ask him what to do?” Gunn asked rhetorically. “Maybe engineering wants to shut down the whole railroad for 8 or 12 hours — is that the best decision to make at the time? These are critical decisions that cannot be decided at the president's level, but someone who can weigh the alternatives. Eliminating the position," Gunn continued, “flies in the face of the railroad operations."

Gunn would not speculate why the position was eliminated, but he did point out that Amtrak did the same thing with the head of labor relations, eliminating that position after Gunn was fired by the David Laney-chaired Amtrak board of directors in 2006.

"I question why the current board would think this is a good idea," Gunn said.

Crosbie couldn’t be reached for comment.

UPDATE: Amtrak spokesman Steve Kulm clarified that the decision isn’t specifically to terminate Mr. Crosbie, but to eliminate his position. “Mr. Boardman feels at this point in time that the key folks who have reported up through the COO: the VP for transportation, VP for environmental health and safety, chief engineer, chief mechanical officer; are all good people, they can do their jobs, and can report to Mr. Boardman.”
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