LOS ANGELES — Gary Gallegos, the executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments, which has been mired in controversy over a failed bond measure, will retire at the end of the year.

SANDAG announced Tuesday that Gallegos, who has led the agency since 2001, is stepping down.

Gallegos, 57, has overseen the agency for 16 years.

A consultant’s report released Aug. 4 said that SANDAG intentionally miscalculated the costs all of its pricier projects using out-of-date numbers. The report says officials knew the bad numbers would make the agency appear more attractive in the contest for federal grant money.

A worker paints the platform of a station during construction on the Trolley Renewal Project in San Diego, Calif. in September 2012. The San Diego Association of Governments $214-billion long-range plan includes 156 new miles of Trolley service and a new trolley tunnel downtown.
A regional light rail system is among the recipients of San Diego Association of Governments funding. Bloomberg News

The Voice of San Diego reported in July that SANDAG staffers had been asked to hide or delete emails, requested by the publication under the California's open-records Brown Act, that were related to the accounting scandal.

The email issue arose after the publication reported that the agency's internal forecasts in December 2015 were overstating expected revenues from a sales tax. Measure A, on the November 2016 ballot, designed to support the regional transportation agency's major projects, ultimately failed. Requiring a two-thirds supermajority to pass, it garnered 57% of the vote.

SANDAG has since revealed it has a $17 billion shortfall for TransNet, the sales tax approved by voters in 2004.

SANDAG Chair and County Supervisor Ron Roberts lauded Gallegos in a statement, despite reports by the Voice of San Diego that suggest culpability.

“Gary Gallegos will leave us as a giant in regional planning and transportation,” Roberts said in a statement.

“His drive and effectiveness as a transportation leader are nationally renowned, particularly when it comes to bringing investment into our community and getting creative projects started and completed,” Roberts said. “While he will be sorely missed, I must honor his decision.”

Gallegos said retirement “has been on my mind for some time.”

He said he stayed to help SANDAG “through the process of an independent examination of our forecasting efforts, as well as keep the organization moving forward on major initiatives such as the construction of the Mid-Coast Trolley extension and South Bay Rapid, along with planning for the Otay Mesa East Port of Entry.”

In 2004, Gallegos led the effort to extend TransNet, a regional half-cent sales tax for transportation that was approved by 67% of county voters.

To date, according to SANDAG, TransNet has spent approximately $3 billion – and attracted another $10 billion in state and federal matching funds – to build approximately 20 major highway and Managed Lane projects and almost 30 transit projects throughout the region.

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