Reasons unclear why board voted to oust BART manager Dorothy Dugger 

Five BART directors from an array of political leanings voted to ask General Manager Dorothy Dugger to resign last week, but the unifying grievance among the group remains unclear.

In a surprise development Feb. 10 in closed session, five of BART’s nine directors asked Dugger to resign. The vote was rescinded after members raised concerns the board may have violated the state’s open-meetings law by failing to provide proper public notice.

But the board will consider the matter again on Feb. 24, and unless something changes, the members who approved the motion — Tom Radulovich, Robert Raburn, James Fang, John McPartland and President Bob Franklin — are expected to oust Dugger.

As general manager, Dugger has helped negotiate $100 million in employee labor concessions and presided over an $8 million budget surplus, a stark contrast to the dire financial straits facing other Bay Area transit operators.

Her tenure also has been marked by the pursuit of costly system extension projects such as an expansion to San Jose and an Oakland airport connector that had to relinquish $70 million in federal funds because BART didn’t carry out the proper civil-rights studies.

The five members who voted to oust Dugger are strange bedfellows. For instance, Radulovich is a progressive, Fang a Republican and Raburn a newcomer to the board. None would speak publicly about their reasons for wanting to see Dugger leave, but not-for-attribution comments suggested a number of varying factors might have played a role.

Dugger’s support for BART expansions over long-term system maintenance is one rumored cause. Another suggestion is that labor groups exerted pressure to oust Dugger on the eve of contentious pension reform talks. A final possibility mentioned was that the five men felt threatened by the strong presence of BART’s first female general manager.

Radulovich, a longtime Dugger critic, repeated his longtime frustration with her management style. “Different members have different concerns,” he said. “But I think everyone is concerned that we’ve been kept in the dark too often with what’s going on — that there’s no transparency or accountability.”

Like Radulovich, BART Director Lynette Sweet did not support Dugger’s appointment as general manager in 2007.

But while she said there have been several times that the agency could have asked Dugger to resign, notably after the killing of passenger Oscar Grant III by a BART police officer, Sweet credits Dugger with helping to turn the agency around.

“She’s done nothing wrong recently and our agency is doing very well,” said Sweet. “I can’t come up with a reason why this is happening now.”

Director Gail Murray praised Dugger for negotiating labor concessions while avoiding a strike. She said it was absurd that Dugger would be forced out, while directors at other local transit agencies with much worse budget problems are being celebrated for their work.

Director Joel Keller said Dugger has steered the agency admirably through a series of tumultuous events.

“That type of leadership in my judgment is what’s needed to keep the district moving forward,” said Keller. “And if she ends up leaving, that leadership will be sorely missed.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com

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Will Reisman

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