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Governor hires watchdog to uncover BART financial waste and fraud

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New gig “prevents fraud, waste and abuse, and identifies opportunities for efficiencies in the administration”

BART train Photo by Shutterstock

Governor Gavin Newsom announced the appointment of BART’s first inspector general to conduct independent audits and investigation into how the transit agency handles its finances.

Harriet Richardson, a former Berkeley and Palo Alto city auditor, was among three nominees the BART Board of Directors submitted to Newsom earlier this year. While BART has never had an inspector general, it now requires the position thanks to an unexpected incitement—namely, bridge tolls.

In 2018, Bay Area voters passed Regional Measure 3 with more than 55 percent of the vote. The measure raised tolls on most major Bay Area bridges (minus the Golden Gate Bridge, which isn’t state-owned) with the promise of investing the resulting revenue into transportation infrastructure.

BART stands to gain from RM3 revenues, which will contribute to its new fleet of cars and upcoming South Bay service.

But a less noticed result of that measure was the creation of a new job at BART to investigate how the transit agency handles funds. According to the job listing posted by BART in December 2018, the inspector general will oversee an office that “detects, investigates and prevents fraud, waste and abuse, and identifies opportunities for efficiencies in the administration.”

Richardson will serve a four-year term, and the BART directors can extend her service at the end of four years if they choose.

According to the Governor’s Office, “Richardson was city auditor for the City of Palo Alto from 2014 to 2019, auditor manager for the City of Berkeley Auditor’s Office from 2011 to 2014 and [...] served as audit director for the City and County of San Francisco” from 2005 to 2008.

In response to the pick, Orinda-based State Sen. Steve Glazer, who wrote part of the legislation that created the new office, said that Richardson would “meet the high standards of independence and integrity the public expects.”

BART recently approved its 2020 budget (which does into effect in July), a $2.3 billion plan passed in the face of declining ridership and mounting complaints from the public. Richardson’s new position pays $205K per year.