San Diego: Epic Levels of Waste, Fraud and Abuse of Gas Tax Funds Exposed in Caltrans and Local Transportation Agencies

A San Diego transit agency that has more $100,000+ staff than it has actual buses! New San Diego transit busses that cost three times MORE than clean, natural gas buses! And a San Diego parking lot for busses that costs $4,166,666 per parking space!

With the election just weeks away, the Yes on Prop 6 Gas Tax Repeal Campaign today released government documents and records showing numerous examples of “epic levels” of waste, fraud and abuse of gas tax funds and other taxpayer resources at Caltrans and San Diego local transportation agencies.

The records and documents were obtained through the California Public Records Act (CPRA) process – and cover only materials received back from San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (SD MTS).  Other local government agencies also receive and spend gas tax funds – raising the question of how many more examples of waste of gas tax funds exist in the San Diego region.

“These examples of outrageous waste of the gas tax and other taxpayer resources provide the best reason to vote YES on Prop 6 the Gas Tax Repeal Initiative,” said Carl DeMaio, chairman of the campaign.

“Our existing gas tax funds are being wasted and we demand that these revelations of bloated bureaucracies, excessive salaries and compensation, and outrageous expenditures be immediately reformed before we give these people any more of our taxpayer dollars,” noted DeMaio.

Finding 1: The $100,000 Club – Government Employees Earning 6-Figure Salaries from Gas Tax

In just the two agencies selected for this review, an astonishing percentage of individuals are earning over $100,000 a year in compensation – at a time when the per capita income in San Diego County stands at just $31,043.  While it certainly is expected that some executive-level employees would earn six-figures, the astonishingly high percentage of total employees in the $100,000 Club is excessive.

San Diego Association of Governments: Forty-four percent of employees at SANDAG earns $100,000 or more per year.

  • San Diego Metropolitan Transit:  One-out-of-four (27%) employees at MTS earns $100,000 or more per year and the MTS CEO (Paul Chester Jablonski) receives total compensation of $539,714 despite. MTS has more members of the $100,000 Club than actual buses in its fleet!  
  • Caltrans: More than half (57%) of the Caltrans employees earns $100,000 or more per year – with 11,256 Caltrans employees pulling in $100,000 or more. For every “active” project at Caltrans, there are more than six members of the $100,000 Club! The average compensation at Caltrans is a whopping $113,554 a year.

Finding 2: Are You Kidding Me Club? Outrageous Compensation Well Above Local Labor Market

The politicians will try to argue that the $100,000 Club is arbitrary and the reason why so many government employees are earning six-figures is because of the “special skills” they possess.  In a complete refutation to this spin, this review uncovered some shockingly high compensation packages for lower-skilled positions.

  • Report to HR! Jeffery Stumbo serves as the MTS HR Director. Despite the fact that MTS only has 194 employees, “Jumbo” Stumbo earns a shocking $276,175 in compensation each year – that works out to be an indefensible $1,423.58 per employee HR file he maintains.
  • Doozy Decimal System: Caltrans even employs a pricey “Librarian” at a cost of $111,941 a year.  How many books does it take to fill a pothole?
  • Six-Figure Gardeners: Caltrans is paying a “Tree Maintenance Supervisor” $111,120 a year.

Finding 3: San Diego’s “Gold-Plated Buses”

MTS has a champagne and caviar bus appetite – paying $900,000 per bus!  Instead of purchasing and running natural-gas powered clean buses at a cost of roughly $300,000 each, MTS has decided that political correctness demands they pay hundreds of thousands MORE or 3 times more per bus for all-electric buses!

MTS is making this pricey purchase of new buses despite numerous documented performance problems with these all-electric buses found by operators and auditors across the country.  In fact, a Reuters’ article from December 2017 points out that “Transit agencies have found EV bus performance lags” and quotes Erica Kato, spokesperson for San Francisco’s MTA, admitting “the technology isn’t quite there yet.”  But hey, it makes for a nice press release on Climate Change goals!

Finding 4: “Gold-Plated” Parking for the “Gold-Plated” Buses

Despite its claim to need more tax funds, SANDAG is looking at spending $75 million to build a temporary bus parking lot in the heart of downtown San Diego. The project concept began in 2012 at price tag of $15 million but has ballooned in cost since then.  Funding for project would come from funds that could otherwise be used to build roads.

Worse, the bus parking lot would only accommodate up to 18 buses (they currently park on the street) at a cost of $4,166,666 per bus!

If the outrageous cost-per-parking spot wasn’t enough, the owners of subject property do not wish to sell so SANDAG may pursue eminent domain and violate private property rights!

Finding 4: Bloated Bureaucracies

  • LAO Says Caltrans Over-staffed by at least 1000 positions in one program alone!
  • Engineering Failure: Caltrans has 7,494 “Engineers” – that’s more than three Engineers for every active project!

Finding 5: Excessive Purchases with Gas Tax Funds

  • It must have been quite the party!  In August, 2017 MTS purchase orders included $7474 for a party at the exclusive Symphony Towers for MTS executives – including $780 in floral arrangements. They got caught with their hand in the cookie jar $3200 for a one-time purchase of “cookies,” and $5800 for Tacos costing $8 for each taco! Ay caramba!

Finding 6: 30 percent of Caltrans “Maintenance” Budget in San Diego Goes to Homeless Clean Ups, Not Road Maintenance

On September 19, 2018, a San Diego region Caltrans official confirmed that a large chunk of Caltrans’ Road Maintenance budget in San Diego County is being diverted for cleaning up homeless camps.

The numbers are alarming: 30 percent of Caltrans’ $18.1 million local maintenance budget went for picking up after people last year. $6.2 million went toward picking up litter off the freeway and for cleaning out the debris fields left behind by homeless encampments abandoned in the wake of 72-hour notices that trash crews are coming.

“That’s the stuff they didn’t want,” said Caltrans spokesman Ed Joyce. “Last year, taxpayers spent millions for crews to work nearly 56,500 hours cleaning up after other people.”  — San Diego Reader, September 19, 2018.

Finding 7: Gas Tax Being Used to Cover Operating Deficits

The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System faces a massive $9 million operating budget deficit this year and predicts years of declining ridership – with a ridership plummeting 10% in the last year alone.  Instead of implementing cost-savings reforms, MTS announced it will use its gas tax funds to plug 100% of its budget shortfall by using gas tax funds.

“Costs at MTS already exceed funding by $9 million, he said; if the gas tax increase survives November, the MTS board could use that money to plug its shortfall.” – Voice of San Diego, July 30, 2018

“These outrageous examples of waste of our gas tax funds is proof that voters cannot trust California government agencies with even a penny more of their money until efficiency and accountability reforms can clean up these excessive expenditures,” said Carl DeMaio, Chairman of Yes on Prop 6 Gas Tax Repeal Campaign. “Voters can send a strong message by voting YES on Prop 6 to repeal the costly and unfair gas and car tax hikes,” DeMaio concluded.