Photo: Caltrain

Caltrain sent out a statement today blasting “several critical factual errors and misrepresentations” in yesterday’s Bay Area News Group report that the agency’s CEO, Mike Scanlon, makes more than any other transit head in the state.

(Listen below to Caltrain spokeswoman Christine Dunn defend Scanlon’s salary in an interview with KQED’s Joshua Johnson.)

From the original article:

Caltrain’s CEO, who has proposed shutting half the rail line’s stations and halting much of its service to survive financially, earns more than $400,000 in salary — more than any transit boss in California.

Last year, Caltrain chief Mike Scanlon took home 59 percent more than the median salary for a CEO of one of the state’s 23 largest transit operators, according to a Bay Area News Group review of salaries released by the State Controller’s Office this month.

Scanlon’s pay topped the list even though the three agencies he oversees — Caltrain, SamTrans and the San Mateo County Transportation Authority — are average in size when combined and are on far shakier ground financially than most other transit operators. And he’s not the only one who has seen a hefty bump in pay at Caltrain, where both administrators and train workers have enjoyed pay raises in recent years.

Caltrain struck back today in the form of a press release from spokeswoman Christine Dunn, who wrote this:

A Bay Area News Group story that appears in newspapers and online today on the compensation of transit executive Mike Scanlon contains several critical factual errors and misrepresentations.

We are deeply disappointed in the poor quality of reporting contained in this story, and the fundamental inaccuracies that occurred despite our continuing efforts to assist BANG in understanding Mr. Scanlon’s compensation.

The headline and the news story text describe Caltrain as paying Mr. Scanlon a salary of $400,668.

This is simply inaccurate. Caltrain does not pay Mr. Scanlon a salary of more than $400,000. The total compensation paid to Mr. Scanlon on behalf of Caltrain under his contract is, in fact, $85,647.

The release then goes on to explain that Scanlon fills “three jobs in one.”

Mr. Scanlon is an employee of the San Mateo County Transit District, with whom he has an employment contract.

Under the terms of that contract, Mr. Scanlon holds three positions:
— General Manager and CEO of the San Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans);
— Executive Director of the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (JPB), which owns and manages Caltrain;
— Executive Director of the San Mateo County Transportation Authority (TA).

Each agency is a separate entity with its own board of directors, its own budget and its own set of distinct responsibilities.

“Mike serves three agencies in one job, each agency is different and there are different demands on the leadership of each agency,” said former SamTrans Board member and Caltrain Chair Jim Hartnett.

“The bottom line is that it is a bargain for the taxpayers — it is cheaper, more efficient and more productive to have one person at the helm of all three rather than three separate people. If we had to hire an executive for each agency, it would cost considerably more than what Mike is making,” Hartnett said…

Dunn provided the following breakdown of Scanlon’s salary:

Mr. Scanlon’s base salary as of Fiscal Year 2010 is $246,643.
Of that base salary, his compensation, under his contract, is allocated to the three agencies using the following formula:

* SamTrans: $197,956, or 80.26 percent;
* Caltrain: $43,828, or 17.77 percent
* The TA: $4,859, or 1.97 percent

When Mr. Scanlon’s retirement benefits and other compensation for all three agencies are taken into account, his total compensation is $407,643.

* SamTrans pays Mr. Scanlon total compensation of $290,825.
* Caltrain pays Mr. Scanlon total compensation of $85,647.
* The TA pays Mr. Scanlon total compensation of $31,171.

In addition, Mr. Scanlon cashed out $24,765 worth of unused vacation time, which Mr. Scanlon used to make donations to the United Way of the Bay Area, where he most recently served as president of the board.

Read the full release here.

KQED’s Joshua Johnson spoke to Dunn today about the discrepancy between the news report and Caltrain’s view of Scanlon’s salary. Dunn called Scanlon’s compensation “a bargain” for taxpayers, as Scanlon performs duties she said would otherwise require three different salaries to be paid out.

Joshua Johnson talks to Caltrain spokeswoman about CEO Mike Scanlon’s salary[audio:]

Caltrain Blasts News Report On CEO’s Salary as Inaccurate 9 February,2011Jon Brooks


Jon Brooks

Jon Brooks is the host and editor of KQED’s health and technology blog, Future of You. He is the former editor of KQED’s daily news blog, News Fix. A veteran blogger, he previously worked for Yahoo! in various news writing and editing roles. He was also the editor of, which documented user-generated content about the financial crisis and recession. Jon is also a playwright whose work has been produced in San Francisco, New York, Italy, and around the U.S. He has written about film for his own blog and studied film at Boston University. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Brooklyn College.

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