As expected, Grace Crunican was appointed general manager at BART on Wednesday, and although the directors who hired her praised her straightforward demeanor and transparency, the new chief refused to discuss the agency’s tumultuous past two months.
“I need to hear from everyone about what the issues are and I will be making some decisions,” Crunican said. “But right now I’m not on board and I don’t want to get into any specifics of the past couple of months.”
BART has been without a full-time general manger since April, when board members asked former chief Dorothy Dugger to step down in a contentious split decision. Since July 3, when BART police officers fatally shot 45-year-old transient Charles Hill at the Civic Center station, the agency has endured withering criticism.
Activists have periodically disrupted evening commutes to speak out against the BART police force and the agency’s decision to shut down cellphone service to disrupt a planned protest.
When asked if she approved of the cellphone decision, Crunican said it would be “very inappropriate” for her to comment on it now.
“Let me get my feet on the ground first,” said Crunican, who was appointed in an 8-1 vote. “And then I’ll be happy to talk about this.”
The former head of the Seattle Department of Transportation will earn $300,000 a year, with the potential for $20,000 more in management bonuses. She is expected to start around Sept. 12, and if she is asked to leave by the BART board, Crunican will receive one year’s salary as severance.
Her salary will be less than the $354,000 that Dugger earned in her last year with BART. However, Crunican will make more than the recently hired Ed Reiskin, who earns $294,000 a year as head of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency, which operates Muni.
Despite her initial evasiveness, Crunican was commended by BART directors for her openness.
“I think she’ll bring a new level of transparency here,” Director Gail Murray said.
Board President Bob Franklin said Crunican’s management approach is “open, straightforward and inclusive.” Director Tom Radulovich said her “straight-shooting and authentic voice” is something BART needs.
But the sole dissenting director, James Fang, said Crunican did not know enough about local transit issues and her starting salary was exorbitant at a time when transit agencies are cutting down executive pay.
Details of Grace Crunican’s new contract with BART:
$300,000 Base salary
$20,000 Potential incentives pay
$18,000 Relocation costs*
4 weeks Annual vacation time
2 years Tenure before Crunican is eligible for full retirement and health benefits
Note: Length of the contract is indefinite
*$18,000 is the maximum relocation costs for Crunican