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O.C. toll road agency's top executive to resign

The chief executive of Orange County's toll road agency has agreed to resign after less than one year on the job.

Neil Peterson, who was hired in May, was put on administrative leave in February after coming under fire for spending thousands of dollars without public scrutiny because of a provision that allowed him to approve certain contracts without board approval.

Lisa Telles, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Corridor Agencies, declined to say why Peterson had decided to resign.

The chief executive came under fire from some board members earlier this year for signing off on thousands of dollars in contracts with only the signature of Lisa Bartlett, the chairwoman of the Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency.

Foothill/Eastern is one of the agencies under the umbrella of Transportation Corridor Agencies, which oversees the county's extensive toll road system. The other is San Joaquin Hills. As chief executive, Peterson oversaw both agencies.

As part of a proposed settlement agreement, Peterson will be allowed to remain on paid leave until June 5 and will be paid $78,845 in compensation and benefits.

The proposed agreement also says that any documents produced in the course of considering Peterson's resignation will be marked confidential and that any future employers seeking references will be told only the dates of Peterson's employment, his job title and that he resigned.

The agreement must be approved by board members, who will consider it Thursday.

In a brief phone conversation, Peterson said he would be "happy" to discuss the reasons behind his resignation but added, "I really can't until they take action at the meeting on Thursday."

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