Pierce Transit official put on leave during unspecified investigation

Rod Baker, the agency’s public safety chief, has been on leave about 5 weeks; officials mum on what it’s about

steve.maynard@thenewstribune.comDecember 26, 2013 

Pierce Transit Public Safety Chief Rod Baker is on paid administrative leave while an outside investigation is being carried out.

Agency officials refused to disclose what the investigation is about or Baker’s role in the matter.

The News Tribune’s inquiries were referred to Transit Board chairwoman and Tacoma Mayor Marilyn Strickland. She wouldn’t comment on the nature of the investigation.

“Right now, there’s an independent investigation and we don’t have results yet,” Strickland said. “I’m not going to comment on any particulars at this time.”

Pierce Transit spokeswoman Carol Mitchell said Baker has been on leave for about five weeks. Deputy chief Bill Cassio is filling in as acting interim public safety chief “while this matter is managed,” she said.

Pierce Transit Chief Executive Officer Lynne Griffith referred a request for comment to Strickland.

“I’m not able to comment on the issue,” Griffith said.

Baker could not be reached for comment.

Strickland said Baker is being paid while on leave at the rate of his annual salary of $123,272.

Baker has been the transit system’s public safety chief since 2006. He has worked for Pierce Transit since 2000.

When asked if the investigation was of a criminal nature, Strickland said it was an “outside investigation.” She said the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department is not involved in the investigation, which Pierce Transit is paying for.

Strickland wouldn’t address who put Baker on leave. She also declined to say specifically that Baker himself is being investigated.

Strickland said the agency wasn’t commenting further “to be fair to everyone involved.”

Baker is supervisor of the Office of Public Safety, which has three divisions:

  • Transit police officers, who are full-time contracted deputies with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department and part-time officers contracted from the Tacoma and Lakewood police departments.
  • Uniformed Pierce Transit security officers.
  • The physical security and records group, which handles incident reports, security technology and an emergency warning system for the agency’s headquarters.

In addition to the contracted officers, Baker supervises 17 Pierce Transit employees.

In February, Baker was one of five finalists for police chief of Lake Forest Park, according to the Shoreline Area News website

Steve Maynard: 253-597-8647

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