Drew defended his choice, contending that the top-ranked consortium, JMA, was too busy supervising subway construction in North Hollywood. The transit chief last week withdrew his recommendation of Metro East, saying the business team had failed to disclose legal troubles and a political contribution to an MTA board member.
Alatorre issued a statement Wednesday expressing hope that Drew would stay.
"The agency needs his type of leadership, especially now," Alatorre said. "It is unfortunate that the actions of a few board members may have led Mr. Drew to his decision."
County Supervisor and MTA board member Mike Antonovich said he believes a majority of the board wants Drew to stay on. But Riordan, who appoints three MTA board members, said he has not made up his mind. And it was not immediately clear whether Drew would stay even if the board gives him a vote of confidence.
"Just because two members are dissatisfied with him does not mean that the entire board is in support of accepting his resignation," Antonovich said, referring to Drew's harshest critics--Yaroslavsky and Molina.
According to associates, Drew had become withdrawn over the past week as he contemplated concerns that he had lost the confidence of his supporters as well as his detractors on the MTA board and found his reputation ebbing.
"We had lengthy discussions . . . and he said he felt he was a liability," said MTA Board Chairman Larry Zarian.
Drew was charged with turning around the agency's image after a series of embarrassing subway construction mishaps, including a large sinkhole on Hollywood Boulevard. During Drew's brief tenure, he shook up the top ranks of the agency, established rapid-response teams to assist owners of property damaged by subway tunneling and rode buses to check on the service.
"Joe Drew came in at a very difficult time," Riordan said. "He's done an excellent job of bringing action and leadership to an agency that was at a standstill."
Federal transit administrator Gordon Linton praised Drew from Washington, saying, "I always found Joe Drew to be a dedicated, hard-working public servant interested in doing the best job possible for the people he served, and we wish him well in all his future endeavors."
But state Sen. Tom Hayden (D-Los Angeles), an MTA critic, said simply: "Another engineer has been ejected from the money train." Hayden said he will call for a Senate hearing in January to consider fundamental reforms of the agency.