The news that erstwhile BART general manager Dorthy Dugger remains the rail service's highest-paid employee -- despite being offboarded by BART's board of directors in 2011 -- is beguiling.
Sadly, it fits a pattern. Exceedingly well-paid executives have a tendency to remain the fattest cats at public agencies, even after they've been shown the door. Much the same happened after former Muni boss Nat Ford stepped down in June 2011. In that year, Ford took home more money than any other San Francisco employee with a total pay of $567,595.
Ford's $384,000 severance payment likely staved off even costlier litigation. But, by that point, the bus was out of the barn; this serves as yet another example of the questionable practice of awarding CEOs of public entities with massive, guaranteed contracts. Ford was jettisoned with money on the meter, so to speak. But not nearly as much money as Dugger.
In addition to a $958,000 severance, Dugger this year managed to slowly cash out some 80 weeks of vacation time she was, amazingly, allowed to accumulate over 20-odd years. Dugger was compensated for this time at her final, and highest, pay rate and even earned additional months of vacation time and management bonuses -- while sufficing on lucrative vacation time and not managing anybody.
BART board members, who voted to ditch Dugger in 2011, are claiming to be blindsided. And though this is a particularly egregious turn of the screw, it's how the machinery functions when top execs' contracts are broken. If, as some board members worried, Dugger was hell-bent on expanding the BART system at the expense of its existing and vastly underfunded core service (an $8 billion shortfall over 30 years -- yowza!) these hundreds of thousands of dollars Duggar sucks up will be rendered trivial. Either way, BART's convoluted fiscal policies for its higher-ups have now been laid bare.
Righteous anger at Dugger's big payout seems a bit like being irked at a ballplayer's inflated salary. He's only taking what was offered to him, and Dugger is only taking what was her due. There is a critical difference, however. Fans can assuage themselves that it's not their money going to overpay a ballplayer; he's being compensated by someone with more money than sense.
Sadly, in the case of a public entity, that'd be us.