A BART station agent who says he gave $300 in discarded tickets to a needful teen will defend himself at a BART hearing Friday, a friend said.
The agent, Novato resident Jim Stanek, 65, told friends he faces the possibility of losing his job or being prosecuted.
Stanek did not return multiple phone calls Thursday asking for comment, but his friend called him "a hell of a nice guy" who "would never take anything from anybody."
The friend, Lonnie Gordon, is a retired Oakley resident who said his grandson began struggling in school last year after the boy's father died. To help his grandson get back on track, Gordon says he sent the boy to a high school in San Francisco called the Flex Academy, which tailors programs to individual students.
The nearest BART stop to home for the boy is the Pittsburg-Bay Point station, and a round-trip ticket to and from San Francisco costs about $11. Gordon said Thursday that after he mentioned the cost and told Stanek the family was having some financial trouble, Stanek immediately offered to help.
"He said, 'Tell the boy to come see me at the station,' " Gordon said.
And just like that, the boy came home with a stack of tickets from Stanek, tickets Stanek said had been discarded and would be thrown out anyway.
"It was enough to last (my grandson) about six weeks," Gordon said.
However, when the boy was stopped by a supervisor at the Pittsburg-Bay Point station a few weeks ago, and the gifted tickets were discovered, the supervisor took the tickets, and Stanek came under investigation, Gordon said.
Now, Stanek may be forced to retire early, and "was told he might be prosecuted for theft," Gordon added. He said Stanek knows that "he made a terrible error in judgment.
"The bottom line is he tried to be helpful, and they want to crucify him for it," Gordon continued. "I thought BART would just say, 'Don't you ever do that again.' "
Adding to Gordon's confusion, he said, is that the Pittsburg supervisor who took the ticket stash from his grandson gave four of those tickets back, saying, "This will help you get to school." Those tickets were worth about $18 total, Gordon said.
BART police refused Thursday to confirm or deny whether there is any criminal investigation relating to the tickets, and BART spokesman Jim Allison said it is a personnel issue on which he cannot legally comment.
The union that would represent Stanek in any disciplinary hearings also declined to comment. Stanek told the press earlier this week he has a hearing Friday.
Speaking generally, Allison said, "The integrity of our station agents, as our front line employees, is very important to us and to the riders. People are paying good money to ride BART, and we need to ensure they're getting fair value, knowing the passenger next to them is paying their way, too."
Employee rules are clear that agents may not keep discarded, valid tickets, Allison added. The Tiny Tickets program riders see advertised in BART stations lets them donate valid tickets to an East Bay charity, but neither BART nor its employees have discretion to donate that money themselves, he said.
"We're a government entity, so we can't just decide to give away stuff that makes us feel good. It's public money," Allison said. "Any potential revenue we have, like if a ticket returned for some reason, that gets put back into the general fund."
Contact Sean Maher at 925-779-7189. Follow him at twitter.com/OneSeanMaher.