Management & Operations

Probe uncovers serious misconduct at San Diego transit agency

Posted on May 1, 2001

After an investigation of employee misconduct ranging from theft to selling drugs on company time, San Diego (Calif.) Transit fired 13 employees and suspended four others. San Diego Transit (SDT) discovered the wrongdoings after initially looking into employee involvement in selling bus transfers on the black market. In April 2000, SDT hired a private investigation company and used undercover operatives to assist with the inquiry. Because the source of the problem was unknown, both the maintenance and driver positions were under surveillance. “In conducting the investigation into the fare media abuse, we uncovered a lot of problems in the maintenance area with the night shift,” said SDT spokesman Carmen Sandoval. In addition to the selling and trading of bus transfers, employees were asleep on the job and having sexual relations while at work. Other misdeeds included employees stealing money from fareboxes and one employee was selling drugs on company time. As a result of investigators’ findings, 11 employees, nine maintenance workers and two drivers were fired and four maintenance workers were suspended in November. Two additional drivers were fired in February for reasons related to the investigation. “We’ve really tightened up in terms of holding people accountable. The fact that we had this many people terminated really reverberated throughout the company and we are continuing to reemphasize that we have zero tolerance for this type of behavior,” said Sandoval. In the aftermath of the investigation, SDT put together a comprehensive management action plan to ensure that such problems do not recur. “The plan is comprised of 24 steps and directives that includes everything, such as intensive training for our foreman, supervisors and frontline supervisors; improved lighting and cameras; and replacing fareboxes,” Sandoval said. The bus transfer system has been revamped so new transfers are issued daily with a different color for each day. Also, tokens replaced transit tickets which were easily misused. “It’s unfortunate that this happened. We have a long history of service, our people have a lot of pride in our company and it’s a very hard time for them right now, but we are committed to rebuilding our reputation to get past this,” said Sandoval. SDT employs more than 1,150 people and has a fleet of 320 buses.

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