California high-speed rail project loses top leader without replacement


California’s high-speed rail project lost a top leader this week without a replacement on tap, injecting fresh uncertainty into a project constantly in flux.

Joe Hedges, the project’s chief operating officer, left his job Monday, said rail spokesman Melissa Figueroa. She gave no details on his departure, saying the agency doesn’t discuss personnel matters. Hedges couldn’t be reached for comment.

His departure came the same day that rail board Chairman Tom Richards announced the conclusion of an investigation into personnel matters and allegations of fraud, though he said no fraud was found. The board formed a special committee in response to anonymous complaints about business practices and personnel, he said in brief remarks after the committee’s closed meeting ended. The committee began meeting in February, according to meeting notices.

The committee hired outside lawyers and a forensic accounting firm, Richards said. The board recommended communications and document processing changes to make sure the authority’s activities are accurately recorded, he said.

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