Lynne Griffith, who ran Pierce Transit for eight years before taking the helm of Washington State Ferries two years ago, will retire from her state government post in January.
“Lynne has brought profound change to an organization which is a treasured icon of our great state of Washington,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a statement. “Her dedication is an inspiration to the hard-working people of Washington State Ferries, and she has my heartfelt thanks for a job well done.”
The announcement came four days after Seattle television station KING 5 reported that state ferries officials had apologized for statements Griffith made in advance of a news story the station was preparing on pay raises for some ferry workers.
Griffith wrote in an email to the system’s 1,600 workers that the pay raises, some higher than 20 percent annually, were based on a recruitment and retention survey that recommended salary increases for some workers, KING 5 reported.
A later analysis of that survey by KING 5 “found the survey does not support the proposed increases,” the station reported on its website Friday.
Ferries system communications director Ian Sterling later told the station the discrepancy between Griffith’s statements and the survey findings was the result of a “communications error.”
“It was not fair of us to put that in the email,” Sterling told KING 5. “I apologize for that … it’s erroneous to say the salary increases were based on the survey.”
Agency spokesman Brian Mannion said Tuesday the dust-up with KING 5 had no bearing on Griffith’s decision to retire.
Mannion also said the pay raises being investigated by KING 5 have been approved by Washington State Ferries management but must be included in the next state budget.
Griffith took over Washington State Ferries in October 2014 after running Pierce Transit for the previous eight years.
She had 35 years of experience in transit, rail and airlines but no maritime experience when she was appointed as assistant state secretary of transportation for the ferries division.
Griffith had intended to retire after leaving Pierce Transit but decided to take the ferries job because, “I can’t resist the challenge that is being afforded me,” she told The News Tribune in September 2014.
During Griffith’s tenure, missed sailings because of lack of crew decreased by nearly 70 percent compared with the two years before she took over, according to the agency.
She also was credited with securing funding for a fourth 144-car Olympic Class ferry, the Suquamish.
In a message to system employees, Griffith, who made about $147,000 in 2015, said she’s “incredibly proud to have been your shipmate.”
“I had no idea how much I would come to love the work and the amazing people who make sure thousands of passengers reach their destinations safely every day,” she said.
Ferries division chief of staff Elizabeth Kosa will lead Washington State Ferries while a permanent replacement is sought.
Kosa joined the agency in 2010 and worked as a senior port engineer in charge of a $35 million annual budget and 350 employees before Griffith elevated her to second in command.