Date of Award

12-2006

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Political Science

Major Professor

Michael R. Fitzgerald

Committee Members

William Lyons, Anthony Nownes, Stephen H. Richards

Abstract

Public authorities are a popular form of quasi-governmental institutions and have been extensively chronicled in regards to effective public service delivery. Authorities are exceptionally popular within the public transportation industry but have slowly lost their fiscal power due to the strengthening of parent governments. This dissertation examines the authority structure in public transportation to understand the linkage between this loss of fiscal power and executive management of public authorities by studying the governing board-executive manager relationship. In particular, this dissertation examines the structure and relationship by studying factors impacting relationships and connections between deceased fiscal power and the members recruited to serve on authority boards.

This exploratory study examines five public transportation authorities in the cities of Memphis, Nashville, Chattanooga and Jackson, Tennessee in addition to the city of Lexington, Kentucky. Utilizing qualitative interviews this research collected primary source, subjective data on perspectives and opinions of authority executives and board members related to fiscal power, policy preferences, representation and executive support. Findings suggest a distinct connection between fiscal power and the types of board members appointed to serve on public authority boards. In the case of public transportation, higher fiscal power saw higher-level board members with less inclination for executive micromanagement. Lower fiscal authority had the effect of attracting low- level members with service-related agendas falling under executive authority with more opportunity for micromanagement and conflict. Unique was the lack of conflict despite increasing occasion for encroachment on executive authority; this was due to executive management of board agendas to create positive relationships with strong support. The study also revealed boards place tremendous value on representation and therefore translate experiences, expertise and personal agendas to board activities and decisions.

Finally this study argued that James Svara’s duality-dichotomy model of local government (1985; 1989b; 1990) provides understanding of public authorities due to parallels with the council-manager system. The research indicates that first, the study is applicable to public authorities and second, board-executive relationships offer a new contextual dimension along board member orientations toward policy activities, advisory functions and community representation.

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