A troubling lack of accountability is afflicting two key Bay Area institutions, and the public is paying the price. At BART, a contract approval debacle has resulted in no firing of top staff responsible for the mistake. At UC Berkeley, an athletic director still has her job despite plunging the school into a financial crisis and presiding over embarrassing failures in the classroom and on the field.

We hear a lot about income inequality, but what about inequality in evaluating job performance? Had a BART worker screwed up their job as badly as BART management did the recent contract negotiations, they’d be fired. And no coach could survive a record as bad as Cal Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, whose contract extension to a failed football coach cost the school $16.5 million. That Barbour and BART General Manager Grace Grunican still have their jobs is further sign that the elite play by a different set of rules.


The Mess at BART

I know long suffering BART riders wish this story would go away, but shouldn’t someone at BART other than management’s hired gun negotiator take a hit for the contract snafu? After all, we’re not talking about holding top management responsible for low-level wrongdoing; we’re talking about BART’s General Manager presiding over a process that, due to her lack of attention, got screwed up.

In my July 2, 2013 article, “Why the BART Strike Happened,” I noted “For over thirty years, BART’s primarily white management has disrespected its heavily minority workforce.” I added that “BART management never pays a price for its disrespect, and no elected BART Board member has lost their seat due to work stoppages during their tenure.”

This culture of management and director unaccountability now continues.

To this day, BART has failed to detail how management signed off on contract documents that they now claim they failed to read. BART's lack of accountability to the public is as striking as its refusal to hold its top officials responsible (Update: after the unions filed suit against the BART Board on December 3 for failing to affirm the contract, BART management again blamed the unions rather than itself. It claimed that "A lawsuit is not needed to correct a mistake," avoiding the question of how this "mistake" is to be otherwise resolved other than by the workers' surrender).

If BART were a private corporation, we’d be talking about how its directors have breached their fiduciary duty to investors/ stockholders. We’d argue that private sector CEO’s are adept at avoiding public accountability for their wrongdoing.

So why is this discussion not happening around the publicly funded and managed BART system? And why are legislators not demanding that GM Crunican and/or whoever she delegated to review the contract language be fired?

If you think this year’s BART negotiations were a nightmare, just wait until the next time if the BART managers in charge of the 2013 fiasco are still in place.

Sandy Barbour Must Go

I've rooted for the Cal Bears sports teams for nearly forty years. But under Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, Cal’s program has become a national embarrassment.

Both on the field and off.

Barbour made former Cal football coach Jeff Tedford the highest paid public employee in California, and then gave him a five year contract extension when there was absolutely no risk that he could get anywhere near as much money elsewhere. Her buyout of Tedford’s contract cost Cal $16.5 million, among the biggest such buyouts in college football history.

I wrote on November 18, 2008 that under Tedford, Cal’s football program “is going in reverse.” That proved an understatement. Jeff Tedford destroyed the Cal football program. He is largely to blame for his successor’s atrocious 1-11 season in 2013 which saw Cal give up an astonishing 551 points, or 46 points a game.

Thanks to Barbour’s ignoring fundamental rules of economics, the regular Cal budget was spending $10 million annually bailing out football’s deficit. This bailout occurred as UC Berkeley was imposing record high annual tuition hikes on students.

The final straw for me came from the SF Chronicle’s Ann Killion reporting on Cal’s football and basketball programs having the worst graduation rates in the nation.

On Barbour’s watch, Cal recruited athletes (disproportionately African-American) whose academic shortcomings were then ignored. Unlike UCLA, which took more low achieving students but then gave them the academic assistance they needed to succeed, Cal simply didn’t give a damn what happened to these young kids after their athletic eligibility was exhausted.

Cal alums may find this judgment harsh, but these are the facts. Cal is doing better in recent years, but Barbour presided over a system of acute racial exploitation that demands her termination.

Given Barbour’s failures on the field and off, her continued tenure reflects a culture of unaccountability equal to that of BART. Both demonstrate the adage that the bigger you are, the less likely you are to take the fall.

Randy Shaw is Editor of BeyondChron