Under pressure from her agency’s board despite presiding over a budget surplus of up to $28 million, BART General Manager Dorothy Dugger resigned Wednesday — a development that will cost the agency nearly $1 million in severance pay.
In February, BART’s board of directors voted 5-4 to ask Dugger to resign, a decision later rescinded due to violations of state public meeting laws. But Wednesday, Dugger made the much-expected announcement that she would be stepping down, effective April 22.
Her payout includes more than $600,000 in severance pay that Dugger would have been owed if terminated, plus $350,000 to avoid potential litigation. The funding will come out of BART’s operating budget.
Dugger, who earns $354,000 a year, became the first female general manager of BART in 2007. During her tenure she was able to secure $100 million in negotiated labor savings, a feat not duplicated at other local transit agencies.
She also helped oversee the implementation of a $1.2 billion earthquake-retrofit program that is scheduled to be finished under budget. BART is the only transit agency in the region with a current budget surplus, which is $10 million to $28 million, depending on state funding.
“We have a board right now that is bypassing any semblance of common sense,” said BART Director Lynette Sweet, one of the four members who wanted to keep Dugger. “Dorothy has been doing a great job at the agency, and now we’re spending nearly a million dollars to make her leave. There is no reason for this.”
But Dugger had her detractors. Some board members, chief among them Tom Radulovich, felt that Dugger’s interest in expanding BART neglected the core system. Despite the surplus in the agency’s operating budget, BART currently faces an $8 billion shortfall over the next 30 years for infrastructure and maintenance projects. The cleanliness of its trains has been a constant gripe among passengers.
Other BART directors said Dugger had an opaque leadership style, and often discouraged the board from questioning her staff’s recommendations for the agency.
Today, during the same meeting at which the board will discuss the agency’s $28 million surplus, directors also will discuss a replacement for Dugger.
Joel Keller, one of four board members who worked on Dugger’s severance package, said the search will be conducted in the broadest possible terms, considering candidates from both inside and outside the agency.
Keller said he’d like to see a replacement who is competent to handle day-to-day BART operations, approachable enough to establish community confidence, able to secure federal transit funding and willing to work with each of the nine directors on the BART board.
He said that forcing a general manager presiding over a budget surplus to resign could send the wrong message to potential candidates.
“Anyone applying to this position will have to ask themselves: What does it take?” said Keller, who, like Sweet, did not support Dugger’s resignation.
$608,000: Cost of Dugger’s severance package had she been terminated
$350,000: Cost to ensure a smooth transition and avoid any litigation between parties
The good and the bad of the general manager’s tenure:
- Currently presiding over budget surplus that could reach $28 million
- Oversaw implementation of
$1.2 billion earthquake safety plan
- Secured $100 million in labor negotiations with BART employees in 2008
- Customer satisfaction level at
82 percent with agency
- Agency criticized for initial reaction to police shooting of Oscar Grant. Eventually dismissed police chief and set up police review committee
- Lost $70 million in federal funding due to neglect of concerns of low-income riders
- $8 billion shortfall in capital improvement budget