Photo courtesy of RTA
RTA board chairman George Dixon III
George Dixon III, who served for 24 years as the President of the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) board of trustees, has pleaded guilty to theft while in office.
The former restaurateur has agreed to pay $132,000 in restitution to RTA, which represents a portion of the health insurance premiums he never paid for.
"Mr. Dixon abused the public's trust for personal benefit," said Westlake Mayor and current RTA Board President Dennis Clough, in a statement provided to the media. "We are encouraged to see that justice is being served. We do not tolerate abuse of taxpayer money, and we have controls in place to prevent this from happening again."
Dixon resigned at RTA's request in March of 2018 after an internal investigation found that he had not been paying health insurance premiums since he enrolled in 1994. After Dixon's resignation, RTA altered its policy. Trustees are no longer eligible for health insurance through RTA.
The restitution that Dixon has agreed to pay is only a portion of a total $1.1 million in benefits and unpaid premiums. RTA says that it's pursuing the remainder through insurance claim recovery.
The Dixon scandal preceded a wave of turmoil at RTA, which rocked its highest levels of leadership. After Dixon's ignominious departure, HR Director Bruce Hampton was suspended for his role in abetting the insurance theft. Hampton later retired and maintained that he'd informed General Manager Joe Calabrese that Dixon was not paying his premiums.
The board then politely invited Calabrese to retire, fed up with what they viewed as his lack of transparency. Calabrese was given an advisory role to soften the blow, but he ditched it a year earlier than was planned to take on a private sector position with a New Jersey transit company.
Last month, the RTA board voted to accept
India Birdsong as the next GM/CEO, following an interim period in which operations director Floun'say Caver served in the agency's top role.
Sign up for Scene's weekly newsletters to get the latest on Cleveland news, things to do and places to eat delivered right to your inbox.