More bonus than raise for Muni chief

Without a hint of public protest or debate Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors approved a $38,000 raise and bonus for The City’s highest-paid public employee.

Muni Executive Director Nathaniel Ford thanked the board and his staff as he accepted the 5.8 percent cost-of-living increase, adding up to a $315,140 annual salary. Ford will also receive a $20,860 bonus.

The board lauded Ford in his first performance review since taking on the top post at the oft-maligned public transportation agency in January 2006. He previously worked five years with the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority.

“Mr. Ford has one of the toughest jobs inthe world,” Director Shirley Breyer Black said, adding that everybody always has something to say to him, and it’s rarely good news.

Ford’s contract calls for a performance review at the end of each fiscal year. At that time, the executive director is eligible for a raise determined by cost-of-living increases and a bonus worth up to 10 percent of his salary. The board did not offer him the full bonus, which would have been $29,800.

Ford postponed his first performance evaluation, scheduled for August 2006, saying that he had not been on the job long enough for an adequate review. On Tuesday, the board applied his raise retroactively, meaning the higher pay applies beginning July 2007.

Commission Vice Chairman Tom Nolan, who headed the evaluation committee, said The City is “extremely lucky” to have Ford in the position. He also said that Muni’s infrastructure is significantly improved and that the agency is “moving forward.”

The public, however, hasn’t offered as much praise when it comes to Muni’s all-around performance, according to a report issued by The City’s services auditor in April. Residents gave Muni a C-minus for timeliness in that report.

But Ford addressed those concerns Tuesday after he received the raise, saying that while it has been a pleasure and an exciting time leading Muni, there were still challenges ahead such as improving customer satisfaction and the agency’s financial situation.

bbegin@examiner.com  

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