Says “Bay Area leaders have not stepped up to fix the fiscal oversight problems with BART…”
BART Board Vice Chair Foley responds, Director Allen applauds Glazer
By Allen D. Payton
SACRAMENTO – Senator Steve Glazer, D-Contra Costa, announced that he resigned today, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023 from his position as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Bay Area Public Transit, saying Bay Area leaders have failed to support fiscal oversight of BART.
Senator Glazer is a longtime supporter of public transit and is concerned about the financial problems facing Bay Area transit systems, which are essential to the health of the regional economy. But, he said, the status quo is unacceptable.
“Bay Area leaders have not stepped up to fix the fiscal oversight problems with BART, as well as the underfunding of the Inspector General’s office,” Glazer said. “When these problems are addressed, I will join with my colleagues and support greater transit funding.”
In June 2022, an Alameda County Grand Jury found that BART’s leadership has repeatedly blocked the Inspector General’s authority and autonomy.
Just two months later, former State Auditor Elaine Howle found that the BART office “lacked the authority and independence necessary to do its job…”
The BART inspector general was created by Senator Glazer as part of a transportation bill in 2017. Senator Glazer advanced legislation (SB 827) to the governor’s desk last year that enhanced independence for the IG, conforming its auditing standards and investigations with other transportation IGs. At the request of the BART Board, Governor Newsom vetoed the bill.
Senator Glazer’s letter reads as follows:
Dear Senator Wiener,
I hereby resign from the Senate Select Committee on Bay Area Public Transit, effective immediately. The failure of Bay Area leaders to hold BART financially accountable makes my participation in this transit support committee incompatible.
I recognize and support the pressing need for the state to invest in public transit agencies throughout the Bay Area given the financial uncertainty that looms over these systems. However, there is no guarantee that these agencies will spend taxpayer dollars sensibly without adequate oversight of their expenditures. I point to the recent alarming reports from BART’s Inspector General regarding BART’s financial mismanagement and brazen defiance of voter-mandated oversight.
In June 2022, an Alameda County Grand Jury found that BART’s leadership has repeatedly blocked the Inspector General’s authority and autonomy. Specifically, the Grand Jury found that BART’s board of directors and management engaged in a “pattern of obstruction” that has impeded the Inspector General’s ability to conduct independent oversight and “stymied OIG independence and the confidentiality of investigations.”
Just two months later, former State Auditor Elaine Howle, comparing the powers and responsibilities of the BART IG to other, similar offices, found that the BART office “lacked the authority and independence necessary to do its job according to the best practices recommended by national professional organizations that set standards in the accountability field.’ She also asserted in a letter to Governor Newsom that ‘(e)nsuring the independence of the BART Inspector General is critical to the credibility and effectiveness of the office.”
As BART and other regional transit systems seek additional state funding to stave off upcoming fiscal problems, the Legislature must ensure that the same systems spend public resources responsibly.
I wish you well with your important work.
BART Directors Respond
When reached for comment about Glazer’s resignation from the committee and reason for it the four BART Board directors who represent Contra Costa County, including Vice Chair and District 3 Director Mark Foley, District 1 Director Deb Allen, District 3 Director Rebecca Stutzman and District 7 Director Lateefah Simon.
Foley responded writing, “I’d like to thank Senator Glazer for his continuing support of BART and public transit. I look forward to partnering with the senator on matters of mutual interest, including strengthening the Office of the Inspector General and helping support BART’s efforts to provide safe, world-class transit, invest in infrastructure renewal and address societal issues such as unhoused individuals within the BART system. I’m eagerly anticipating Chair Wiener’s appointment to this vacancy on the Senate Select Committee on Bay Area Public Transit.”
Allen responded writing, “I applauded CA Senator Glazer for standing up to Bay Area elected leaders to insist on accountability to transit riders and taxpayers. They deserve answers about how BART spends $2.5B plus annually and those answers aren’t easy to come by.
Senator Glazer and I have worked for over six years together to get answers and still continue to meet resistance in making meaningful independent oversight a permanent part of the BART culture. We have worked tirelessly over last 4 years on strengthening the role of the Office of Inspector General we created and built, while the majority of BART board directors, unions and executive staff continue to focus on the ‘more money please!’ approach. We saw it last week in BART’s annual Board Workshop and it seems Senator Glazer is seeing the same approach evolving from the Senate select Committee on Bay Area Public Transit. That will only produce more of the same failed policies we see now for BART.
I believe BART executive management and a majority of directors will continue to fight proper oversight. Unless our state leaders like Senator Glazer attach oversight strings to new funding at the state level to keep transit agencies accountable to the people who are paying for it, transit will continue to fail the riders, workers and the Bay Area.”