Racial politics marked BART board's searchBy Phillip Matier & Andrew Ross
The selection of longtime BART second-in-command Dorothy Dugger as the transit agency's new general manager was loaded with politics - a lot of it racial.
It started last month when the search firm charged with seeking out a diverse range of candidates came back with a list of 30 possible GMs - of whom 16 were African Americans. Only one was Latino and none was Asian American.
The BART board's three-member search committee whittled the list down to nine earlier this month, five of them African American and the rest white.
That triggered pointed questioning from some board members about the mix, including questions from James Fang as to why no Asian Americans or Latinos had made the cut.
"It seemed unusual that the search firm, which is supposed to find qualified minority candidates, only found African American candidates," Fang told us.
Tensions peaked when the search committee narrowed its choice to Sacramento light-rail boss Beverly Scott, who is black, and Dugger, who is white. They were also the only women from the final nine.
Before the search committee could make a planned Aug. 16 trip to Sacramento to get a final appraisal of Scott, BART board member Bob Franklin left a phone message for panel President Lynette Sweet - telling her that, by his count, Dugger already had the votes for the job.
It wasn't long before Franklin and his colleagues, overriding Sweet's attempt to put off the vote, called for a special meeting Thursday to confirm their choice.
Sweet, who is African American and has pushed for more minorities and women in management positions, cried foul. She was joined by a large contingent of African American women who turned out at the meeting to support Scott.
"Dorothy is our general manager and we will have to work with her," Sweet said Friday. "But I don't feel there is a level playing field, and unless we make a concerted effort to make it level, we won't get there."
Some of Sweet's colleagues are reeling over her decision to make a public stink over the selection process, including her accusation that Franklin violated the Brown Act open meeting law by counting votes ahead of the selection.
BART's lawyers say Franklin did nothing wrong, and now there are rumblings of a board coup to remove Sweet from the panel's presidency.
Copyright ©2007 San Francisco chronicle. Published 08/26/2007.