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Gov. Brown appoints financial expert to bullet train authority

August 19, 2011 |  5:33 pm

Photo: California Gov. Jerry Brown. Credit: Eric Paul Zamora / MCT One of the vacancies at the agency attempting to build a bullet train was filled Friday, when Bay Area financial expert Dan Richard was appointed to the board of the California High-Speed Rail Authority by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Richard has moved in and out of public projects, serving on groups involved in Bay Area transit and airport projects.

The board position has been empty, and Brown had pledged earlier this week to fill it quickly when he reiterated his support for the rail project. Notably, four of the seven executive staff positions at the agency are also vacant, even as it enters a crucial period to prepare for the possible start of rail construction next year.

Richard had not filed a routine financial disclosure forms as of Friday, and attempts to reach him were unsuccessful. Richard is an attorney by background and one of five attorneys on the nine-member board of the authority.

Critics have complained that the board does not have engineers or rail experts, and members of the state Legislature have moved to revamp the entire board to strengthen its technical expertise.  The existing board includes a former mayor, two labor leaders, an expert on the homeless and a former staffer to Gov. Gray Davis.

Since last year, Richard, 60, has been a principal in his own company, Dan Richard Advisors, which operates out of his home in Piedmont. He is a registered Democrat and has made a few small political contributions in recent years. Before moving to his own company, he was a managing partner at Heritage Oak Capital Partners, an infrastructure finance company, and a senior vice president at Pacific Gas & Electric. At the start of his career, he spent six years on the staff at NASA headquarters.

The appointment of a financial expert points up the critical issue of how the state will finance the project. Although voters approved a $9.95-billion bond issue in 2008, the project faces some important long-term funding issues.

“Richard’s experience and skill make it clear why he has the confidence of Gov. Brown,” said rail authority Chairman Tom Umberg.


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-- Ralph Vartabedian

Photo: California Gov. Jerry Brown. Credit: Eric Paul Zamora / MCT