Rohan Hepkins resigned as a commissioner on the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) and PATCO boards in February, to “pursue career opportunities that may be in conflict with his position on the board,” as Chairman Ryan Boyer put it at the time.
In July, PATCO hired Hepkins to fill its vacant Assistant General Manager (AGM) position, a job that paid its previous occupant $140,000 a year.
The assistant general manager job opened up in January, a month before Hepkins resigned, when PATCO unexpectedly fired Bennett Cornelius, a well-liked industry veteran with 38 years of industry experience focused on commuter rail operations and scheduling. At the time, PATCO officials told PlanPhilly that the agency decided to “go in another direction.”
Governors from both Pennsylvania and New Jersey appoint commissioners to the DRPA Board, which oversees PATCO, and make staffing recommendations. When administrations change, like when Tom Wolf replaced Tom Corbett as governor in 2015, senior executives often change at the DRPA: Former chief operating officer Timothy Pulte left in April, former deputy chief executive officer Mike Conallen was fired in July, and former homeland security director Robert Shiver was cut at the end of January.
Hepkins, the Democratic mayor of Yeadon in Delaware County, was appointed to the DRPA/PATCO Board by Governor Tom Wolf in March 2015. Hepkins retired from SEPTA in 2014, after 30 years in various management positions, the last of which was Director of Customer Service. Cornelius, a registered Republican, spent decades at Amtrak.
In an emailed statement, DRPA spokesman Kyle Anderson wrote that the authority received 80 applications for the position. From that pile, six were interviewed. Anderson also wrote that the DRPA “exceeded our standard practice of advertising the position for 2 weeks on job sites such as LinkedIn, Careerbuilder and Monster.com, as well as specialty outlets such as Transit Talent.”
Calls to Hepkins mayoral office were not returned. SEPTA’s pension program allows retired employees to continue to receive payments even when they take on other, full-time employment.
Hiring former commissioners to executive positions is not unheard of at the DRPA. Chief Executive Officer John Hanson previously served on the DRPA board before being hired to the top position in 2014.
Cornelius declined to comment for this article.