SAN FRANCISCO -- Several years after it was discovered that a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) janitor earned over $200,000, Transparent California, along with at least one BART board member, questioned why the agency was paying its employees so much in overtime instead of just hiring more people.
I-Team Reporter Melanie Woodrow put in a records request and BART provided her with the 2018 compensation for all of its employees. Certain departments and employees stood out as receiving more overtime pay than others.
BART said it moves up to 430,000 people per day through California's Bay Area. It takes more than 4,000 employees to move all of those people.
"It's a very complex organization and sometimes we have to pay overtime," said Michael Jones, BART's deputy general manager.
The agency paid one employee more than $172,000 in overtime. In some cases, overtime pay was nearly twice an employee's regular pay.
The I-Team asked Jones why there is so much overtime pay.
"We're proud of the fact that our employees are willing to go the extra mile and put in the work that's needed to make sure that we move the Bay Area consistently," said Jones.
Really going the extra mile was one station agent in particular. That's the person who opens and closes the station, provides passengers information and deals with emergencies.
According to BART, one of their station agents in 2018 worked 361 out of 365 days at more than 40 different stations, making more than $114,000 in overtime. Combined with regular pay, the station agent made nearly $200,000.
"I don't think that 361 days in a year is good for an employee, I don't think it's great for an agency," said Bevan Dufty who is on BART's Board of Directors.
"It is a very visual, visceral, relatable concern about who's minding the store," said Dufty.
BART's Deputy General Manager wouldn't answer questions about individual employees.
"Why not hire more employees to cut back on some of that overtime pay," Melanie asked him.
"In almost every case it's more financially sound for the district to pay an employee overtime than to hire an additional headcount. If you have one person working overtime you are paying one pension, you're paying for one family of healthcare vs. if you hire a person you're paying for double of that," said Jones.
"From a dollars and cents standpoint you can make a case that overtime costs less. I do think from a moral standpoint, I think from a public perception standpoint, and I think from the fact that these are good jobs, they're middle-class jobs that enable people to live in the Bay Area, I would err on the side of expanding our personnel," said Dufty.
In 2018 certain departments paid more overtime than others, like the Revenue Vehicle Trouble Desk. BART said those are the mainline technicians who ride and troubleshoot the trains. One technician made nearly $163,000 in overtime, almost twice their regular pay. Add that in and they made more than $253,000.
Also Police Operations. Remember the BART employee who made more than $172,000 in overtime? It was a BART Senior Police Officer. Add in regular pay, and they made more than $279,000.
"We hired over 63 officers just last year alone. We're on track to have a fully staffed police force before the end of this year," said Jones.
For all the good Dufty says BART is doing around public safety issues, he doesn't want to see something like overtime pay set the agency back.
"We're out there doing the right thing and then this comes along and I go, ugh. It's part of life as a BART director," said Dufty.
BART said the station agent who worked 361 days in 2018 is still an employee but is not currently working at any station. BART would not say why.
BART also said HR is in the process of compiling 2019 compensation data but does not yet have a firm timeline of when it will be completed.