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DOT Boss Vows to Fix Problems Listed in Critical Report

Posted November 8, 2007

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— Rank-and-file members of the Department of Transportation got the opportunity Thursday to question the agency's head about a recent outside report that called the department inefficient, poorly managed and lacking in direction.

There was standing room only at the open meeting held by Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippet, who admitted DOT is trying to work out kinks. Tippet said he is committed to changing how the organization functions, but did not elaborate on any changes.

"The job is very challenging but not overwhelming," Tippett said. "What we're trying to do is bring about change to an agency that has essentially operated for 75 years in the same manner."

The DOT wanted to know what employees thought about the agency in the aftermath of a botched paving job on Interstate 40 in Durham, so it hired an international consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., to find out. The report was based in part on confidential interviews and surveys of nearly 9,000 DOT employees and interviews with state leaders.

Workers complained about low morale and a lack of vision. The agency was also accused of having a lack of accountability and being "too political." One employee wrote that it seemed like no one was in charge.

Allegations of inefficiency also dogged the DOT in the report. The report also found that the DOT's structure prevents some divisions from working well with each other and that the agency does not do a good job of recruiting new workers or keeping the good ones.

Employees also said they were dissatisfied with low pay and outdated technology.

"If this was a corporate structure, heads would have rolled," said state Sen. Neal Hunt, R-Wake, a member of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Tippet said he does not anticipate making any changes among his management team. He said he believes the right team in place to get the job done successfully.

"If it's candid answers, you'll see where the warts are in your organization. The issue is (to) do something about it," Tippett said.

Gov. Mike Easley, who appointed Tippett, said he supports the Transportation Secretary. A spokesman with the governor's office said Easley believes Tippett will deal with the problems listed in the report.

Among the recommendations are that the DOT increase accountability and streamline projects. McKinsey said it would work with the DOT over the next year and half to try to make the agency more efficient.

Based on Tippet's responses during the meeting Thursday, some employee said they are willing to give him the green light to go ahead.

"We saw an administration that is willing to come out of their comfort zone, so at a staff level, it's extremely encouraging," Ted Devins, DOT employee, said.

Brad Wilson, head of the 24-member transportation committee appointed by Easley earlier this week, said Tippet will face a challenge endeavor as he tries to initiate change in DOT.

"It will come down to the strength and energy of the leadership, their commitment to making those happen," Wilson said.

95 Comments

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  • LEG Nov 9, 2007

    about the DOT employees who lean on shovels comment: What about the many who push snow in the middle of the night or cut a tree out of the road in the dark, or get cursed at by the public while flagging traffic in the sweltering heat or freezing cold; or those who go home every day covered in tar and mud, tired from picking up the dead animals, tires, and trash out of the road. For some, it is a thankless job that only pays about $25k a year. and yes, a few give the rest a bad reputation. Its sad the stereotype is based on a few bad apples

  • HadEnough Nov 9, 2007

    This guy has diaper party written all over his face.

  • Lissa13082 Nov 9, 2007

    "just don't anybody do anything to bother a contractor like trying to enforce the speceficiations on a construction project. because if you do so they will send you home on two weeks leave without pay an call it insubordiation" - Specifications are enforced and fines are put in place. One ex. a contractor was supposed to be out of the road by 6am. at 730am we were getting calls about traffic backed up due to them still being in the road. We fined them a rediculous amount per minute that they were still in the road past 6am. They pretty much ended up working for free for a while on that job.
    bullet656 - well said, GWALLY is an idiot!

  • Offshore Nov 9, 2007

    Okay, is it me or did the answers given by Tippet dance around any concrete evidence that he is actually doing something about the issues? A broken system, politically crashed and burned. Pet projects causing misuse of funds and increased taxes on gas. Oh joy, are they going to fix it and lower the price on gas? I DON'T THINK SO...

  • candace710 Nov 8, 2007

    As a former NCDOT employee, the Department has put itself in a bad situation. They are hiring people who are not qualified for leadership or decision making positions. I’m sure there are a number of reason’s for this but from what I have seen one of the main reasons for this is the NCDOT must meet “quotas”,. That is hiring/promoting people based on their race. It’s a number’s game for the Department. Another reason is promoting “friends”. When friends promote friends it creates a bunch of “Yes Men/Women” . And this creates a chain reaction from the top all the way down to the bottom. The NCDOT probable has 90% good hardworking people, but it’s the 10% that gives them a bad name. As far as Lyndo, I wrote a letter to Raleigh about two years ago concerned about the policies of the NCDOT, I never received a response. The only way to fix the problem is to promote well qualified personal with the courage to standup to upper management.

  • ChrisR Nov 8, 2007

    Kind of a link between this story and the story of the Green Hope HS students killed in a traffic accident -- NCDOT just finished a study of this road in response to a request for a restrictive speed limit from us (we live off O'Kelly-Chapel). Their response was they found no basis for a lower speed limit!

    There have been at least 3 fatalities in less than a year -- so what would be a basis for a restrictive speed limit on a winding, no shoulder, country road?!?

    Our prayers to the parents and dismay to those who are entrusted to create a 'safe State Highway system'!

  • NeverSurrender Nov 8, 2007

    "I don't know how many times I go to the DMV, which is a division under you, and over pay for registration and anything else that I have to over pay for, and I see every single employee just clicking off time rather than help the people that they are supposed to help. I will remember your words when I am standing in line for an hour to do a 10 minute thing and at 4:00 pm your employees tell me that they can't assist any more."

    ---

    Must have been the office in South Hills in Cary. Thankfully after an hour in one of their queues, they got the internet-based registration and I've never looked back. It takes all of three minutes to register the vehicle, pay the fee, and the stickers show up two days later.

  • DayumKrazy1 Nov 8, 2007

    isn't this the third guy this year who we have learned of that was appointed by easley who is failing miserably at doing their job correctly?

    1. Durham DA dook scandal

    2. Head of DMV false title issued

    3. Head of DOT serious issues running dept

    4. ??????? its not 2008 yet

    I bet he will be glad when his term is up...those guys alone are making him look really bad!

  • pbjbeach Nov 8, 2007

    to gpd writting letters an making phone calls are totally usless in the current political enviroment i have tried it an no one will take responsibility for doing their jobs within the ncdot. an it appears to me that anyone that even tries to do their jobs they just get slapped down by upper mangement. an upper mangement just pays lip service to getting the jobs done because they don't really care if the jobs are done or not. just don't anybody do anything to bother a contractor like trying to enforce the speceficiations on a construction project. because if you do so they will send you home on two weeks leave without pay an call it insubordiation, or conduct unbecoming a state employee that is determinable to state service as i have had happen to me. thank you

  • pbjbeach Nov 8, 2007

    to the old pirate the republicans have been running the ncdot for the last past 12-15 yrs with the blessing of the progressive democrates in this state why do you think that there has been so much outsourcing of road construction projects an the failing conditions of the state transportation system. the quality of the products that these contractors are producing aren't what it used to be even 15-17 yrs ago the quality of everything that is used in the building of a new construction project . because the ncdot spec's have been rewritten by the A.G.C. an the contractors in this state i am talking about from the subgrade to the catch basins the fencing materials the guardrail an the accompanying hardware to the quality of the black base asphalt mixtures to the h-binder an even the surface coarse mixtures (H.D.S.) is not the cure all because the liquid asphalt is of a sorrorwer quality an the stone has been run through such a gradation process as to allow for finer materials to be used

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