Blue line

The head of bus and rail operations for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan County Transportation Authority is no longer in his position and will be reassigned, according to agency staff. Above, Blue Line cars near Washington Boulevard and Flower Street. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times / July 16, 2012)

The head of bus and rail operations for the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is no longer in his position and will be reassigned, agency staff told The Times.

As chief operations officer, Frank Alejandro managed Metro's six rail lines and more than 2,200 buses, which handle a combined 1.1 million boardings on most weekdays.

The change came as a surprise to Metro officials, who said Alejandro had a reputation for resolving issues quickly and efficiently.

Alejandro and his boss, Chief Executive Officer Art Leahy, had a working relationship that dated from the 1990s, when Alejandro worked for Leahy at Minneapolis-St. Paul's transit agency.

Metro spokesman Marc Littman said he could not characterize Alejandro's reassignment as a demotion or otherwise. He said Alejandro was on vacation and will be assigned to "a strategic position" in Metro's operations division when he returns next week.

"The details are being worked out," Littman said in an email.

Alejandro did not return calls seeking comment.

Debra Johnson, who had been Alejandro's deputy since summer 2012, started Monday as interim chief operations officer, according to a two-sentence memo Leahy sent to staff last week. In the interim position, Johnson will earn $209,700 a year, according to the Metro website.

Alejandro began his transportation career as a bus operator 35 years ago. After stints in Minneapolis and San Francisco, he rejoined Metro as chief operations officer in early 2012, making a salary of $255,000 a year, according to Metro documents.

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laura.nelson@latimes.com