AC Transit Director Joel Young doesn't deserve to keep his seat on the board of the East Bay's largest bus system. Unfortunately, voters have no better option.
Three incumbents face contested elections on the Nov. 4 ballot. In Ward 4, the best choice is challenger Murphy McCalley. Voters in Ward 5 should re-elect Jeff Davis.
Then there's Young, the ethically challenged director who holds one of two at-large seats on the seven-member board. For that race, we make no endorsement.
The transit district, stretching from San Pablo to Fremont, faces major financial and labor challenges. Drivers, mechanics, dispatchers and clerical workers were threatening to strike last year when Gov. Jerry Brown intervened with a cooling-off period.
The three-year deal finally struck included wage increases that compound to nearly 10 percent. Workers pay nothing toward their pensions and $120 monthly toward health care, no matter how many dependents. Meanwhile, the pension plan is badly underfunded.
Directors must begin negotiating a new contract in less than two years. While being sensitive to workers, directors must put riders and the transit system's financial stability first.
It's clear where Young's loyalties lie. After his 2009 appointment to a board vacancy, he worked for three months coordinating election field work for the Alameda Labor Council, of which AC Transit employees' main union is an affiliate. It showed stunningly bad judgment he vowed not to repeat.
But he did. During board closed sessions, Young, a lawyer, received confidential information about the district's strategy defending against a wage dispute lawsuit. He then turned around in 2012 and 2013 and filed similar lawsuits on behalf of employees of the Valley Transportation Authority in the South Bay and the Portland, Ore., TriMet transit system. Workers in all three agencies are represented by the same national union.
After filing one of the lawsuits, Young went to the office of AC Transit's attorneys to view the case file, which included confidential documents. According to a subsequent investigation, Young reviewed the files to help him in one of his lawsuits. When AC Transit directors found out, they voted to censure him.
Young has no credible election opponent. Adrienne Andrews, identified on the ballot as a paralegal/student, did not show up for an interview or return subsequent calls. Retired bus driver Dollene Jones, who also ran in 2012, saw district issues strictly from a labor perspective and her role, if elected, as an advocate for the drivers.
Ward 4: Castro Valley and much of Hayward
Incumbent Mark Williams was the only director who did not support censuring Young. Like when he first ran in 2010, Williams did not return our calls.
But his opponent did. McCalley, a retired transportation consultant, served as the chief financial officer for the Los Angeles and San Diego transit systems, and then as a financial adviser to transit agencies across the country.
McCalley considers workers the district's biggest asset but understands that labor agreements also must be fair for riders and taxpayers. He grew up in the East Bay and remembers when AC Transit was considered a premier system, something he'd like to restore.
Ward 5: Fremont, Newark and part of Hayward
Davis, the incumbent, is a thoughtful former transportation administrator who understands the complexities and challenges of transit finances, especially AC Transit's.
His opponent, Kewal Singh, works at BART as a team leader for a train car maintenance crew and represented workers during last year's strike and negotiations. (This year, he has earned more in overtime than base pay, for which he could offer no explanation.)
He claimed to be familiar with AC Transit finances, but his answers demonstrated otherwise. The last thing the bus system needs is another union representative on its board.