Feb. 10 (UPI) -- Heath Hall left his position with the Federal Railroad Administration after reports surface that he also was working as a public-relations consultant for the Madison County, Miss., sheriff's office.
Hall, appointed to the FRA in June, had pledged on a federal ethics form that his firm wouldn't be active while he worked at the department, yet the firm continued to collect payments from Madison County between July and December.
Hall became the FRA's acting chief after being appointed deputy administrator in June, overseeing a $1.7 billion budget and 760 railroads. Last summer, he was seen twice in local media reports as a Madison County, Miss., sheriff's department spokesman.
Last month, Hall took an extended leave of absence for a family emergency, but DOT officials said his departure is now permanent.
"We were unaware of the information that is being reported but those allegations, if they are true, are troubling," said Marianne McInerney, spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation, via a statement. "Heath Hall has resigned his position at the department effective immediately."
Currently in the role is Juan Reyes, the agency's chief counsel, who had taken over the position in January after Hall went on leave of absence.
Hall's departure comes at a time when the agency needs a key leader after recent crashes including four fatal Amtrak crashes since December. Last year, railroad deaths mounted to 828, the highest in a decade, according to FRA data.