Just when we thought greed at BART couldn't get worse, we learn about yet another fat employee benefit, this one for managers.
We already knew that all workers in the agency are eligible for a generous pension program at no cost and health insurance for just $92 a month no matter the size of an employee's family. Now, for about 20 percent of BART's 3,257 employees, add another perk that would not be tolerated in the private sector.
Reporters Thomas Peele and Daniel Willis stumbled upon this rip-off as they reviewed BART's 2012 salary data. They noticed that former General Manager Dorothy Dugger, who was forced out in 2011, collected more pay than any other BART employee in 2012.
When Dugger left, she and the district struck a deal giving her an immediate $958,000 severance. So, how could she draw annual salary and benefits worth $420,000 the year after she was effectively fired? It turns out that Dugger, like other BART management employees, could collect "terminal leave benefits."
Here's how it works: When management workers start at BART, they earn three weeks' vacation each year. They incrementally work up to six weeks annually after 19 years on the job. They also have 13 fixed and "floating" holidays.
With all that time off, it's not surprising they don't use it all. So BART allows managers to save unused vacation and holidays without limits. Many can even add in some of their unused sick leave.
When their jobs end, the managers can use that extra leave time to stay on the payroll -- to continue to receive full salary, incentive pay and health benefits, and to accrue work credit that boosts their subsequent pension calculations. They even -- get this -- receive holiday pay and accrue more vacation time that they can use to further extend their time on the payroll.
Dugger just became the poster child for this abusive program.
She worked for BART for 20 years, so she had about 3,100 hours of unused leave time.
BART Director James Fang of San Francisco was shocked. "We never think about these very critical and important little things," he said. Really? Why not? You've had 22½ years on the board. Maybe it's time to start thinking about them. It is, after all, your job.
"We should be able to control it," added first-term Director Robert Raburn of Oakland. No kidding.
With BART and its labor unions locked in contentious contract negotiations, in which the excessively generous pension and health care benefits are at issue, the system's directors must show that they're serious about reining in managers' benefits too.
That means eliminating their ridiculous leave accrual program -- now.