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War On Women Over 40”: Lawsuit Claims Age, Gender Bias At NCTD

To read this story backed-up throughout with primary documents, click here

North County Transit District Executive Director Matt Tucker speaks at a news in March about the Sprinter shutdown.

Aired 10/23/13 on KPBS News.

A lawsuit recently filed by a former North County Transit District employee alleges age and gender-based discrimination within the agency, and points the finger at NCTD's chief executive officer, Matthew Tucker.

— A former employee of the North County Transit District has sued the public transportation agency, claiming its executive director, Matthew Tucker, illegally targeted employees -- specifically, older female employees -- for layoffs, then retaliated when his decisions were questioned.

Virginia Moeller, a former human resources employee, filed the lawsuit last month. She is claiming age and gender discrimination and accusing the transit district, known as NCTD, of failing to protect employees from Tucker’s actions.

Moeller declined to be interviewed, but current and former employees have described, both in public court documents and in interviews with inewsource, Tucker’s hiring and firing practices within the government agency tasked with running the county’s SPRINTER, COASTER, BREEZE and LIFT train and bus services.

In her lawsuit, Moeller said Tucker “chose older employees, and at times, older female employees for layoff” and “made various age and age/gender based remarks indicating a bias against female, and/or older female employees.”

She claims “the bias manifested itself” when Tucker fired her.

The lawsuit contends the actions violate state law.

Moeller’s is the second lawsuit against NCTD alleging discrimination since Tucker’s hire in December 2008. The first was filed by former bus operations manager Kim Stone in April 2012. The district did not respond to a request for a copy of the settlement, but NCTD check records show Stone and her lawyer were paid $42,418 on January 18, 2013.

Stone’s lawyer, Laura Farris, told U-T San Diego at the time, “We believe that Kim’s situation is endemic of what is happening at the transit district.”

Tucker and the North County board chairman declined to comment on either Moeller or Stone’s lawsuits, or any of the allegations former district employees discussed with inewsource.

Heidi Rockey, a former grants specialist who resigned from NCTD in July 2012, told inewsource Tucker made a habit of firing, laying off or demoting women over 40.

“One of my last acts of defiance,” she said, “was to quit coloring my hair.”

Moeller’s lawyer, Bill Woodson, said he is astounded by the brazenness of Tucker’s actions.

“There are just too many people that are saying the same thing, singing the same song...” he said, “and it’s being ignored.”

Complaint For Damages

“Like so many others…”

After his hire in December 2008, Tucker’s biggest hurdle was to streamline NCTD and pull back from what one board member described as a fiscal death spiral -- a looming budget deficit and drastic cuts to state transit funding. In response, the new CEO engineered an unprecedented agency outsourcing plan, and by mid-2012, more than 80 percent of the district’s staff was let go. Many within the agency’s bus division took new jobs with the outside contractor, First Transit.

The board applauded the move, Tucker received a raise, and his story was highlighted throughout the national transit community and even by the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, which honored NCTD with its Golden Watchdog Award for “sound fiscal decision-making.”

Rockey, the district’s former grants specialist who is 54, said after the downsizing, the remaining employees thought the worst was over. But soon after, she said, older women became targets.

“If it had been one person here, one person there.. but it wasn’t” she said.

Current and former employees interviewed by inewsource said the executive director often replaced older, female employees with attractive, younger women.

According to sources who were either the subject of the statements or witnessed the actions firsthand, Tucker frequently referred to older female employees as “grandma”; asked if they had enough energy to do their jobs; suggested they dye their hair to look younger; and repeatedly said younger women were “easier on the eyes” than their predecessors.

Two years ago, Rockey and several of her colleagues dubbed the situation inside the Oceanside headquarters, “Tucker’s War on Women Over 40.”

“It was all these women, all over 40,” Rockey said, “and it became really obvious. It was sort of a gallows humor, people said, ‘lookout, if you’re over 40, you might be next.’”

Rockey said she left the agency after discovering and reporting to her superiors that federal Transit Administration grants to NCTD were being over-encumbered. She said the amounts were small -- a few dollars here and there -- but it worried her enough to document the overdraws in an agency database, and to inform three employees in her department about the repeated occurrences.

She said she was told it didn’t matter.

“I left because I just couldn't deal with it anymore,” Rockey said. “I reached my threshold for breach-of-ethics issues.”

Virginia Moeller

In Moeller’s lawsuit against the agency, the former HR manager accused Tucker of preferring certain employees for hire, transfer or promotion based on their age, gender or race with “a distinct disregard” for the law.

Tucker had been hiring and restructuring the organization without board approval since his hire, a violation of the district’s own policy. An NCTD spokesman at the time claimed the violation was “an oversight on the part of the entire NCTD team,” according to the U-T San Diego. Yet a few weeks later, he and the rest of the board gave the power to hire, fire, demote, promote, abolish and create employee positions to Tucker as executive director. It’s called Policy 19.

Moeller’s lawsuit takes issue with a separate policy change under Tucker’s leadership. Resolution 78-14, a 33-year-old policy, placed laid-off employees at the top of re-employment lists in order of seniority. The board rescinded the law in mid-2011.

Moeller’s lawyer wrote that Tucker “on at least one occasion, undertook to change a NCTD policy regarding layoffs in order to target older employees” and to make the layoffs appear “lawful, legitimate, and pursuant to NCTD policies.”

Moeller is also claiming “failure to prevent discrimination” and “negligent supervision” in the lawsuit.

“Somebody in a position of authority is backing this guy,” said Woodson, Moeller’s lawyer, “because this has been going on for a very long time and it’s fairly outrageous.”

Allegations from Moeller, Woodson, Rockey, and Stone were echoed by three former NCTD upper-managers, as well as others who know the executive director personally. They told inewsource they’ve seen the alleged behavior firsthand, and said many people inside the agency know of the practice -- including NCTD board members.

Angela Miller, the district’s former chief technology officer, told the HR department and NCTD's board of directors in an email on Sept. 12, 2012 that she felt she was being “harassed and bullied,” and that the behavior “was becoming endemic at the agency.”

“I would have loved the opportunity to continue working with such a strong technology team and to assist with meeting the challenges of continuing to provide service to the residents of North County -- if I had felt respected and valued. But, like so many others, I did not.” — Angela Miller, September 2012

The district’s board chairman, Supervisor Bill Horn, declined to comment on any of the subjects in this story, citing the pending litigation. Horn has also declined to comment on all but one of the 24 stories inewsource has published about NCTD since February.

Questions, tips or suggestions? Email reporter Brad Racino or call him at 619.594.3569.

Brad Racino is a reporter with KPBS media partner inewsource

Comments

Avatar for user 'TuckerMustGo'

TuckerMustGo | October 23, 2013 at 6:06 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Matt Tucker is the Bob Filner of NCTD. Those who have had the misfortune to work with Tucker know all about the creepy, Filner-style vibe he has around women. The fake insistent laugh, the insincere smile--it's like fingernails on a blackboard. And why was there never action taken by the Board about the Sprinter shutdown? How much taxpayer money was wasted on that mess? Why does Tucker still have a job?

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Avatar for user 'NCTDisTuckeredOut'

NCTDisTuckeredOut | October 23, 2013 at 8:05 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Bill Horn declined to comment on this story. Why is he silent? Why has he been silent on the extensive series of stories on the mess at NCTD? The other NCTD Board members are Mark Packard of Carlsbad, Don Mosier of Del Mar, Tony Kranz of Encinitas, Ed Gallo of Escondido, Gary Felien of Oceanside, Rebecca Jones of San Marcos, Mike Nichols of Solana Beach, and John Aguilera of Vista. WHY ARE THEY SILENT??? Do they exercise ANY oversight over Matt Tucker?? The Sprinter was shut down for months. Sprinter maintenance was delayed, causing the shutdown. Audits have found huge problems. WHY ARE THEY SILENT???

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Avatar for user 'fallbrookcoasterrider'

fallbrookcoasterrider | October 23, 2013 at 11:17 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

How much more evidence before the board takes action? All the allegations from misuse of funds to lack of security to now discrimination shows that problems with NCTD will continue until he is removed from position. I'm disguised that in this day and age a "Mad Men" mentality is still acceptable. And as a woman of color who is over 40, I have experienced discrimination first hand. I find his actions against these women as offense as the n-word. I wish I could say that I am shocked that another person of color could discriminate anyone, but I'm not with what has become evident of his character in court papers and media outlets. His actions have made him the Filner of north county. But who really needs to be held accountable is the NCTD board. To let this conduct continue, is a liability that I hope the board is held accountable to one day. I know of at least a half a dozen persons that are now taken their own cars to work in response to Mr. Tucker. actions over the past year. That's money out of the transit's pockets. The board should at least think about that even if their not concerned with moral/ethical values.

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | October 23, 2013 at 3:07 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

More than half of the driver's I have had recently have been older women. Maybe it just the area, but I see diversity of age, race and gender. Is this just another "sour grapes" suit???

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | October 23, 2013 at 3:59 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

I can't say I blame them after looking at the "fired" photographs, especially after comparing them to the "hired" ones. Who wants to work with unattractive people? It is bad for moral.

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Avatar for user 'Appalled'

Appalled | October 23, 2013 at 4:09 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Muckapoo1, you probably aren't aware that the bus drivers don't work for NCTD. The bus drivers work for a private contractor called First Transit. If Tucker worked for First Transit, he would have been held accountable long ago.

JeanMarc, your comment is either a poorly worded joke, or you are part of the problem.

The pictures do show that Tucker has a "type," doesn't he? After Tucker is eventually fired, maybe he and Bob Filner should spend all their time on match.com.

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Avatar for user 'northcountyvoter'

northcountyvoter | October 23, 2013 at 8:10 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Bill Horn and Mark Packard, you have both lost my vote! This is inexcusable! And I am going to encourage my friends to do the same with the other city representatives. Thanks for the list of Board members in the previous comment. It will come in handy at election time!

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Avatar for user 'sdreefer21'

sdreefer21 | October 24, 2013 at 12:21 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Could the problem have also been the women who claimed to be discriminated against as well. Whats wrong with fresh young talent? Its just as bad to rule someone out because they are younger.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | October 24, 2013 at 12:32 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

A simple google search of Mr. Horn reveals he has a long list of corruption disturbing I not outright illegal activity.

He is a good 'ol boy, he thinks he's above the law (look at his circumventing permit requirements for his own property).

He has also illegally forced religion and anti-abortion propaganda in schools.

I'm not surprised at all something like this was allowed to fester user his watch.

But, he continues to sit in his cushy highly paid supervisor chair uninterrupted as scandal after scandal seems to come and go without affecting his position one bit.

I'm sure this will be settled with a wink, a kickback, and a nod, and will soon be swept under the rug.

The county supervisors get away with murder in this backwards county.

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Avatar for user 'DeLaRick'

DeLaRick | October 24, 2013 at 1:38 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Isn't the missing piece of the puzzle whether or not qualified men were bypassed for the younger women in question? It's hard to prove the age bias, but proving a sexual bias would put investigators on the right path.

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Avatar for user 'GunnerChief'

GunnerChief | October 24, 2013 at 3:23 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Good Journalism takes facts and lead to a conclusion. In this case, there was a conclusion looking for facts to support it. Due diligence makes for honest reporting. This is an absolute one-sided hack piece. That being said, I would like to put some "real" perspective to this story. In the past 2 years, more women OVER the age of 40 have been hired than UNDER 40. There is also no mention of the fact that NCTD has hired Hispanic, Asian, African-American and Caucasion women....and Men! In fact, more minorities have been hired in this period than non-minorities. In every case, Mr. Tucker WAS NOT involved in over 90% of the interviews nor did he have any say in the person(s) offered the positions. Each new hire was interviewed by a panel that included male, female and HR representation. These committees determined which candidates were offered positions based on their interviews and resumes.

I also take umbrage at the women depicted in this article. I love and respect all of these women who work hard and are consumate proffessionals. The writer of this article makes the assumption that they were only hired because the are young and attractive. I know this doesn't work well with the writer's sexist theory of NCTD hiring practice and doesn't make for an exciting expose but believe it or not, these women are actually excellent employees serving the public!

The public is not served by a self-serving reporter who lacks due diligence when investigating for an article. It is apparent that you were brought up in the 9th place ribbon and certificates of participation if you believe that you are a skilled reporter with any integrity. The sad part is that people will believe your headlines and misinformation as the gospel.

The unintended consequences of your actions was the pain and hurt that your article caused honest hard working women at NCTD. People that did nothing to deserve your portrayal of them which in and of itself is sterotypical, sexist and biased not to mention downright dishonest. Journalism produced by throwing crap against the wall to see what will stick is basically dishonest.

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Avatar for user 'Alex_Grebenshchikov'

Alex_Grebenshchikov | October 24, 2013 at 4:42 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

This is exactly why I go through a great deal of effort to make myself look as young and attractive as possible. As unfortunate or unfair as this might seem, it's just how the world works. Attractive people seem to be more successful, and seem to do better in business, especially if they business relies on building relationships with clientele or drawing in customers. A man would always prefer to order his coffee from an attractive (and ideally slightly flirty) person. For me personally, I try to look like the kind of person I would want to hire, and my actual job skills are proven later.

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Avatar for user 'Brad Racino'

Brad Racino, KPBS Staff | October 24, 2013 at 4:43 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Dear "GunnerChief,"

I reported and wrote this article, and I'm sorry you feel it's a "one-sided hack piece." Nearly everything you cite in your comment is opposed to what I have learned through a meticulous reporting process. I do not contend that the younger women "are actually excellent employees serving the public."

That said, if there are errors in the story, we are happy to correct them. It is our policy to do so. If you can supply some data or other verification of your comments, my number is 619-594-3569 or you can email me at bradracino@inewsource.org

Choosing the photos was not haphazard. We made sure we had a defined universe of women: those in top managerial positions. We took care to establish that both graphics contained photos of women in similar categories or positions. We did the best we felt we could in making parallel comparison, despite the fact that NCTD has not updated its payroll roster on the state controller's website. That data is supposed to be current to make sure municipal governments are transparent about employee salaries.

We did not intend to offend any of the women in the graphics. Many of them have told us they did not take offense.

That said, NCTD has not granted us interviews, explanations or even responses to our recent public records act requests, and so we have turned to inside and outside highly-credible sources for the information.

But you are probably already well aware of all this. Your IP address traces you to within the North County Transit District headquarters in Oceanside.

-Brad

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Avatar for user 'northcountyvoter'

northcountyvoter | October 24, 2013 at 9:12 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Regarding the GunnerChief comment above.

Your comment is an insult to the intelligence of North County taxpayers. According to your own comment above, you currently work at NCTD.

Your faulty grammar, spelling, and logic provide an ironic exclamation point for NCTD's sea of troubles over the past year. Follow the links above to previous stories on NCTD. Employment discrimination. Destroying emails. Poor contract administration. Faulty accounting. And the millions of dollars lost during the Sprinter shutdown, so cloyingly called by NCTD the "Sprinter-ruption," with which I'm sure you were VERY familiar.

First, you deliberately ignore the fact that BOTH Matt Tucker AND BIll Horn refused to comment for the story. And don't tell me the usual bureaucratic garbage that they can't respond because of pending litigation. OF COURSE they can respond. They CHOOSE not to respond. Speaking the truth will NEVER hurt your side in litigation. The only reason for Tucker and Horn not to respond is if the truth is not helpful to their case.

Second, you seem to be asserting that you have detailed statistics at your fingertips on hiring and firing at NCTD. All of this information, ALL OF IT, should be public information, which you should have no difficulty disclosing. I suggest you demonstrate more courage than Matt Tucker and Bill Horn did. Please, call KPBS right away and share this information. Put up or shut up!

Third, maybe NCTD should spend some of the money saved from deleting emails, and buy spell-checking and grammar software. You call the younger employees "consumate proffesionals." Wow, you've misspelled BOTH of those words. Way to make your point, dude!

Also, you state, "I love and respect all of these women..." You know, you probably could have said that in a way that was less stalker-y.

Finally, it appears that you posted your comment from the NCTD headquarters at 3:23 p.m. I think I can speak for all of us taxpayers that NCTD employees should spend less time during the workday posting comments on news stories, and more time GETTING BACK TO WORK!

That way, maybe you could avoid another multi-million dollar "Sprinter-ruption."

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Avatar for user 'ScoobyDoobieDoo'

ScoobyDoobieDoo | October 24, 2013 at 9:43 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Gender bias is an important thing to look into. All softs of unfair bias should be examined. And I am pleased that Racino says that he has obtained information from a meticulous reporting process. So I have some questions that he should have been able to answer before writing this sort of piece.

1. Of the total number of women hired since Matt Tucker's tenure at NCTD, what percent have been under 40 years old? Please provide the total number of hires and the number of hires of women under 40. Oh, NCTD didn't provide it? Then how can you make an accusation that there is a "War on Women"? Is it because you spoke with a handful of fired workers? Remember that thing about bias that we are both concerned with?

2. Of the total number of hires of women since Matt Tucker's tenure, what is the exact number of women that Tucker has directly been involved in hiring?

3. Of the total number of fires, demotions, or layoffs of women since Matt Tucker's tenure, what is the exact number that Tucker has directly been involved in seeing their demotion or removal?

4. Of the total number of fires, demotions, or layoffs of men and women since Matt Tucker's tenure, what is the ratio of men to women in that domain? You found a whole bunch of women. So how many men did you find? You did look into this, right?

5. Remember that point I opened with about bias? Of the total number of stories you've reported on regarding NCTD, what percentage of them have been positive reviews of NCTD? And note that by writing titles such as "War on Women" that are catchy and attract attention, you might consider explaining to your audience how KPBS pays you per story you write - or is it by clicks from readers?

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Avatar for user 'northcountyvoter'

northcountyvoter | October 24, 2013 at 10:52 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Regarding the ScoobyDoobieDoo comment above:

Wow, I just accidentally clicked back on this page, and noticed that another NCTD shill had posted a comment.

It seems REALLY unlikely that an actual member of the public would read this story and think, "Hey! I feel a compelling need to defend Matt Tucker." When I saw a TV report of this story on channel 10 yesterday, I thought it was outrageous. And I still do.

So congratulations, anonymous NCTD drone, as you appear to be. At least you're not posting during the workday, so that's progress!

The upshot of your post seems to be this: this news story should not have been written, because NCTD refused to provide information or otherwise cooperate. ARE YOU SERIOUS?

Last time I checked, NCTD was a PUBLIC agency responsible to the TAXPAYERS. Matt Tucker is not some feudal lord with the power to indulge his romantic fantasies on the taxpayers' dime. It's already outrageous enough that Matt Tucker and Bill Horn refused to respond for this story.

Maybe YOU don't think it's news that there's been 2 separate lawsuits making similar charges. I sure think it's news, and I'm sure most members of the public agree. And so did Channel 10, which ran the story yesterday. Are you complaining to them as well?

I'm looking forward to the inevitable next step for bureaucrats, when NCTD will selectively cherry-pick some self-serving and incomplete statistics, in order to muddy the discussion. Maybe that will be your job tomorrow, anonymous NCTD drone!

And it is LAUGHABLE that you complain that KPBS hasn't written a "positive review of NCTD" recently. If was just a few months ago that the Sprinter was COMPLETELY SHUT DOWN, costing MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars.

After that MONUMENTAL screw-up, only a myopic bureaucrat would whine that they haven't gotten enough "positive reviews."

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Avatar for user 'ScoobyDoobieDoo'

ScoobyDoobieDoo | October 24, 2013 at 11:14 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

I think that you missed the upshot of my post. I might be wrong, I only skimmed your response to me as I snoozed through your comment. But I can help you, my fellow troll, by using language that you can understand.

Like, FOR REAL, I thought that the author TOTALLY did NOT understand statistics while writing as a JOURNALIST before making accusations so MILLIONS of people could read his blog post. Or he SHOULD HAVE POSTED THEM for us taxpayers!!!!

The only person who I care to see a response from to my serious comment is Brad Racino. And I want to see answers to the questions I asked. Obviously, future responses from you will be ignored. (Translation: if I CARED what YOU think, I would have objected to something YOU said, had I thought you said anything WORTH engaging. But THANKS SO MUCH for trying to be a SERIOUS player here, especially when it means getting PWNED by SCOOBY DOO!)

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Avatar for user 'northcountyvoter'

northcountyvoter | October 25, 2013 at 6:32 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Well, "ScoobyDoobieDoo," it's pretty obvious that you skimmed and snoozed through the article as well.

You continue to ignore the critical point that Matt Tucker and Bill Horn refused to provide any information. Why is that? It appears that "GunnerChief" who posted from the NCTD headquarters claims to have information on hirings and firings. Maybe he'll share it with KPBS today! But I won't be holding my breath waiting for THAT to happen! (Oh, there I go again, using capital letters to provide emphasis. DEAL WITH IT!)

You also ignore the point made in the article that the phrase "War on Women Over 40" originated with female employees inside NCTD itself! That's not something KPBS came up with it, it's a quote! I bet that's why it's in quotation marks at the very beginning of the article. But I expect you may have inadvertently skimmed and snoozed right over that as well.

It's also VERY interesting that you're trying to insinuate that if one cannot prove whether Matt Tucker was personally involved with a specific hiring or firing, then somehow that lets NCTD off the hook. That's a RIDICULOUS position. If NCTD has been involved in discriminatory actions, it's IRRELEVANT whether Tucker was personally involved or not!

Nonetheless, we probably all agree that it's a great idea for NCTD to release ALL of the statistics that you requested! So how about it, NCTD? Release ALL of the statistics, not just the cherry-picked, selective, self-serving ones. Let's have Matt Tucker and Bill Horn break their silence, and let's get the facts on the hirings, firings, promotions, and demotions during Matt Tucker's tenure.

Then "ScoobyDoobieDoo" can return to skimming and snoozing.

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Avatar for user 'takemeoff'

takemeoff | October 25, 2013 at 8:39 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

As someone specifically named and featured in the article (yeah look up my IP address too, don't worry I am on a break) "Many of them have told us they did not take offense." Wrong, sir. Wrong wrong wrong. Totally offensive. If you are going to take my photo from a social media account to make your point then actually read my profile and realize that I am more than qualified for my position.

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Avatar for user 'Appalled'

Appalled | October 25, 2013 at 9:22 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

I can understand the concerns expressed by the employee above. It's not an employee's fault if they were hired by a scoundrel.

But the article doesn't even suggest that the younger women aren't qualified for their positions. The clear focus of the article is that the older women were probably just as qualified for their positions. And two separate lawsuits have alleged that the actions taken against older women were not legitimate. That sounds like discrimination, and even the younger employees should support efforts to expose discrimination at NCTD.

I noticed a comment on the inewsource version of this article. "What Tucker did was even worse than what Filner did: Women, many of whom probably had dependents, lost their livelihoods for the most corrupt of reasons." Well said.

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Avatar for user 'RLA'

RLA | October 25, 2013 at 9:08 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Watch your comments here - on KPBS Roundtable tonight the iNews commentator said that there were mostly positive comments, but that the lone negative comment was tracked to an IP address at NCTD.

SINCE THIS WAS SAID ON THE AIR ON KPBS it seems to me that the station news department is serving notice they will track you down if you don't agree. Not what I expected to hear from "member supported" public television/radio.

What's your policy KPBS?

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Avatar for user 'northcountyvoter'

northcountyvoter | October 25, 2013 at 9:47 p.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

I also saw the KPBS Roundtable this evening, and thought each of the stories were excellent.

The comment being referenced is the one from "GunnerChief" above. If you read the comment, it was clear that the author had already described himself as being from within NCTD. It was also revealing that "GunnerChief" chose to post from NCTD during the workday.

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Avatar for user 'Brad Racino'

Brad Racino, KPBS Staff | October 26, 2013 at 2:10 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Dear RLA,

The "tracking down" you refer to was done on the inewsource website, and it was hardly tracking. Please allow me to explain:

Before a comment is approved on our site, it is sent to a website administrator to make sure it's not spam or extremely offensive material. And since we are a small nonprofit with many reporters wearing multiple hats, I am also the administrator. If you find that to be problematic, please donate to our current membership campaign so that we can hire more full-time staffers.

That being said,

When we receive an alert that there is a pending comment, the alert automatically contains the IP address of the commenter. It's a very basic plugin that comes standard with website management. It also looks up the IP domain registered to that user. As an example, the North County Transit District's account is publicly registered with its internet provider and that information shows up within every alert.

The comment from our site was then copied and pasted into the KPBS story's comment section nearly verbatim.

So, rest assured, we did not go out of our way to find out who this person was. The information comes standard to any website administrator, and to ignore it would be to ignore a great portion of what we do -- which is to investigate even the most basic of leads. There is no policy to hunt people down who don't agree. You'll notice that in the wide variety of viewpoints posted on both our site and on KPBS.

Please reach out and contact me with any more questions or concerns at (619) 594-3569 or at bradracino@gmail.com. I'd be more than happy to talk to you.

-Brad

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Avatar for user 'jtk'

jtk | October 28, 2013 at 9:16 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

The comments on the inewsource version of this article deserve to be seen here as well.

Concerned Citizen commented,

Bravo to inewsource to keep up their excellent reporting on continuing issues at NCTD. The problems with Matt Tucker are not unlike the problems with former mayor Bob Filner. Like Filner, Mr. Tucker feels emboldened without impunity to continue his harmful behavior because Bill Horn and others entrusted with oversight of NCTD appear to think board oversight is about managing political risk rather than governance & oversight of a public entity. Unfortunately, Mr. Tucker is a train wreck waiting to happen, and it will at some point, much to the harm of many people, just like Filner.

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Avatar for user 'jtk'

jtk | October 28, 2013 at 9:20 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

On the inewsource version of this article, Ei commented,

Your piece gives me new hope for journalism. Thank you so much for your efforts. What Tucker did was even worse than what Filner did: Women, many of whom probably had dependents, lost their livelihoods for the most corrupt of reasons. Tucker AND THE PEOPLE WHO ENABLED HIM need to be held accountable.

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Avatar for user 'jtk'

jtk | October 28, 2013 at 9:25 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

On the inewsource version of this article, unbelievablebehavior commented,

As a former NCTD employee (1 of over 600) who left during Tucker’s near 5-year regime, I am still amazed at what I read in the press about that sad organization. Working for NCTD was once a sense of pride. Now it is an absolute embarrassment! Those who stay must only be doing it for their pensions and health benefits, or to build their resumes. I mean, why else can they be staying?! Of the 95 or so remaining (many of whom have only been there a few years), the revolving door still sends people out of there at least monthly if not weekly. And, yes, men seem to leave almost as frequently as women, whether by resignation or lay-off. Mr. Racino’s article didn’t reflect that, but I have seen it myself firsthand.

The recurring problem/cause of all this unrest is Matt Tucker. He is a knee-jerk, schizophrenic weirdo who changes his mind about people constantly. One day you’re in the A group; the next day, you’ve been relegated down to the B group. Before you know it, you are being marched out the door on a severance package even though your performance evaluations have been stellar for the past several years. Why is this unbelievable behavior being allowed?! I mean, we are not talking about the 1960′s to 1980′s where such behavior was tolerated. And yet the Board does nothing about this crazy guy they’ve allowed to run NCTD into the ground year after year. Everyone except the Board members themselves are perplexed about this. Why does the Board remain silent on this? The only thing we can fathom is that Tucker has something on them to keep them from firing him.

I highly commend both Virginia Moeller and Kim Stone for taking a stand against the atrocities experienced at NCTD since Tucker came on board. For those of you who were recently laid off, I sure hope you did NOT sign severance agreements. Instead, please consider filing a discrimination complaint with the Fair Employment & Housing Administration (FEHA) in San Diego. Once that is done, you can then file a lawsuit against Tucker and NCTD. I think you have 2 years from your date of separation in which to file a lawsuit, but your complaint with FEHA needs to be made within 1 year.

Since they paid off Kim Stone for at least $42,000+, rest assured, they will pay you off as well if you feel you were wronged. I hope Virginia Moeller holds off for at least $100,000 or more! I also hope that someone will stay the course on their lawsuit until Tucker is deposed. I heard through the grapevine that he decided to settle with Kim Stone right before his deposition was to be taken.

Board members…. wake up and send this guy packing. The worst thing you could do is to renew his contract. PLEASE don’t do that! If you do, I hope all of YOUR depositions will be taken as well as these lawsuits unfold.

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | October 28, 2013 at 11:02 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Remember folks, if you say something an author disagrees with, they might expose information about you that is otherwise inaccessible to the general public.

Censorship through intimidation.

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Avatar for user 'RLA'

RLA | October 29, 2013 at 7:25 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

Brad Racino's reply about my comment on singling out a "negative" comment with information about the iNews use of IP addresses to track the comments source seems to miss my point. Mr. Racino points out iNews' valid need to prescreen comments while also asking for more funds for iNews ( are they funded by KPBS ?). He also points out that the comment in question was originally posted on the iNews website and then transferred "nearly verbatim". Some of his comments are germane while others are self serving for iNews.

Back to my point - prescreening comments is expected. I assume that anything I put on the web is not anonymous. Using the broadcast media to reach a wider audience to single out a comment's source in an apparent (to me anyway) attempt to discredit the comment's value is of great concern. What's the next step? Maybe discount my comments about San Diego because I happen to live in La Mesa?

In the interest of full disclosure I did not take Mr. Racino up on his offer to contact him prior to writing this reply. I may at a later time.

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Avatar for user 'alexw'

alexw | October 29, 2013 at 7:58 a.m. ― 1 year, 1 month ago

The news story said that this government agency was asked to comment but refused. Given the facts, I think it was appropriate for KPBS to point out that the negative comment came from within the government agency itself. Imagine if a story about Bob Filner received a negative comment from the mayor's office, it would be important to let the public know that.

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