Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Earlier this month, inewsource and KPBS published a series of stories on San Diego's North County Transit District -- a taxpayer-funded public agency responsible for all the trains and buses running between San Diego, Oceanside and Escondido.
The investigation focused on a lack of oversight within the organization, as well as its high rate of turnover within upper management. Our reporting found that those factors have contributed to NCTD's awarding hundreds of thousands of dollars in severance payments to departing employees -- along with hundreds of thousands of dollars in "recruiting fees" to hire their replacements.
During the same few years, audit after audit has shown deficiencies in NCTD's transportation services for the disabled, the agency’s security services, its contractual oversight division -- and its compliance as a recipient of Federal Transportation Administration grants and funding.
For the second time in less than a month, NCTD has sent inewsource and KPBS a letter demanding retractions. We have responded, backing up our statements, and asking NCTD to provide documentation disproving our findings. NCTD has yet to send any information that proves anything in our investigation to be wrong.
However, we are correcting one fact we confirmed ourselves to be inaccurate.
In one of our recent articles, we wrote the following:
"During his outsourcing, [NCTD's Executive Director Matthew] Tucker contracted out the maintenance of the SPRINTER vehicles to a private company, which then subcontracted out to another private company."
In fact, SPRINTER operations had been outsourced since the light-rail vehicle's inception in late 2008, before Tucker joined NCTD.
We also are modifying our graphic detailing the recruiting fees the agency paid for its new hires while we wait for NCTD to identify the individuals involved. NCTD said it did not pay any fees for two employees listed on our graphic, although they did pay fees to recruit for the positions held by those employees. In our reply letter to NCTD, we referenced the agency's own invoices and asked for correct names of the employees. NCTD has not responded.
In its demand letter, NCTD continued to maintain that it properly allocates capital and operating expenses in its budgets by referencing a letter from its independent auditor stating as such. In our reply, we pointed out that the auditor didn’t look at any of the items described in our investigation, but rather based his judgment on a construction project not mentioned in our story. NCTD has not responded.