9 Investigates

Lynx CEO is out after WFTV reports about potential $21 million debt

ORLANDO, Fla. — Lynx announced Thursday that CEO Edward Johnson will step down as head of the transportation agency, effective Thursday, after a series of 9 Investigates reports about the agency's financial struggles.

The agency's attorney announced the "voluntary separation" during a board of directors meeting Thursday.

"We have reached an agreement with Mr. Johnson for his severance from Lynx," the attorney said.


Johnson left the meeting once the announcement was made. He wrote in his resignation letter that "adventurous opportunities await" him.

Johnson's severance includes three months of severance pay and other benefits. The agency's attorney told the board that a separation agreement had been in the works for a month.

Jim Harrison, Orange County's assistant county administrator, will serve as interim CEO. He said he will do a deep dive into the agency's finances to try and get it back on track financially.

9 Investigates'  Shannon Butler began questioning Lynx's finances in October when the agency dipped into its reserve funds for the current year.

In January, 9 Investigates discovered that the agency could need to find $21 million next year to balance its budget.

9 Investigates also reported in January that Johnson has a $195,000 salary and that Lynx employees were worried about keeping their jobs during the company's struggles.

Johnson had not had a performance evaluation in the three years that he was with Lynx, 9 Investigates reported in January.

In January, the Lynx board decided against exploring the option of firing Johnson. 9 Investigates asked Johnson at the time if he would resign.

"I don't think that it is time for me to go from this organization, per se," Johnson said.

Even with the change in leadership, Lynx will need each of the counties to which it provides bus service to pay more money.

Former Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs was reluctant to raise taxes, but current Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said Monday that he will soon unveil a new initiative that will help fund Lynx and other Central Florida transportation agencies.

"I'm not saying we are going to raise taxes, but we are going to have to come up with some (type of) funding strategy," Demings said.

Documents said Lynx does not plan to raise bus fares to make up for its funding shortfall.

"We have been looking for new leadership, and it's about time we got it," said Ismael Rivera, president of the bus union.

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