Newsom siphons Muni money for staff 

Mayor Gavin Newsom is coming under fire for dipping into Muni cash to pay for his own staffers, while The City’s public transportation agency struggles with a triple-digit structural budget deficit and falls below on-time performance goals.

At least seven positions in the Mayor’s Office ranging from a press deputy director who was hired two weeks ago to Newsom’s newly created position of Director of Climate Protection Initiatives, have all or part of their salaries funded with money from the budget of Municipal Transportation Agency, which oversees Muni, according to information provided by request from Newsom’s spokesman Nathan Ballard.

"They are playing accounting games here to thwart an open process," Supervisor Jake McGoldrick said. "Of all the departments or city services to milk — that’s certainly one of the worst situations you could ask for."

The newest member of Newsom’s press office, deputy press secretary Brian Purchia, started two weeks ago at an $85,000 salary funded by MTA, while Wade Crowfoot, who has taken over the newly named position of Director of Climate Protection Initiatives, is having his $130,112 salary nearly half-funded by the MTA.

Stuart Sunshine, who serves in Newsom’s inner circle as his point person on MTA issues, earns $217,000, with 60 percent funded by the MTA. Sunshine’s assistant is paid with $70,000 of MTA money.

Deputy City Controller Monique Zmuda said while "it’s not unusual for prior mayors to receive funding from departments to fund in part or in whole certain positions that benefit those departments as well as the mayor’s administration," that when the "nexus" is less clear questions of appropriateness arise.

Ballard defended the use of MTA dollars and saidthe positions are related to transportation, adding that the deputy press addition will be transferred over to the mayor’s budget "as soon as possible."

"This is the most efficient way of getting the very best people to work on transportation issues in the Mayor’s Office and we make no apologies for it," Ballard said.

Revelations about Newsom’s use of MTA for cash and job slots come as the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee is reviewing Newsom’s three appointees to the MTA board of directors.

On Thursday, action on the appointees was postponed for two weeks at the request of the Newsom administration.

MTA spokeswoman Janis Yuen referred "all inquires regarding this matter" to the Mayor’s Office of Communications.

Public transportation advocate Andrew Sullivan, from Rescue Muni said he was hesitant to comment without seeing the numbers, but said the mayor’s staffing "does raise questions about what the MTA is spending its money on."

jsabatini@examiner.com

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