Last week, we published a story about the continuing turnover at the North County Transit District and the cost in severance agreements — nearly $300,000 — the agency has incurred since Jan. 1, 2014.

Since publication, a number of sources have reached out to tell us that the total is even greater, and the severance agreements themselves show that to be true.

The $300,000 was the total amount of the severance payments — money handed over in a lump sum after an employee signs a contract ending his or her employment. What we didn’t take into consideration is the amount paid to employees who were no longer physically working at the district but were kept ‘on-call’ for their services, sometimes up to six months, at full pay.

To see more of our NCTD coverage, click here.

For example, the senior contracts administrator at NCTD, Larry Frum. He signed his severance agreement on Oct. 31, 2013. But the language in the signed contract shows he was to be kept on full-pay for another six months, until May 15, 2014.

According to the State Controller’s office, Frum’s position paid more than $10,000 a month. Receiving full pay for six months after signing the severance agreement would amount to another $61,000 — at least — on top of severance pay.  NCTD also continued to pay Frum’s health benefits through June 30, 2014 and his life insurance plan through May 31, 2014.

In total, that one employee cost the district around $100,000 when he left.

In total, NCTD awarded 17 months of full pay (like Frum’s) to 12 employees who ‘left’ the transportation district between Oct. 30, 2013 and May 20, 2014.

On a side note, we requested the last 10 severance agreements between San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and its employees — not including security officers — for comparison.

We received the severance papers the next day, and it showed MTS has spent about $81,000 in severance payouts since July 31, 2013. None of the agreements included any language about continuing “on-call” pay.

MTS has 1,452 full time employees.

NCTD, according to its documents, employed 127 in FY 2013.

Brad Racino was the assistant editor and senior investigative reporter at inewsource. He's a big fan of transparency, whistleblowers and government agencies forgetting to redact key information from FOIA requests. Brad received his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri in...

6 replies on “Cost of turnover at NCTD much higher than reported”

  1. Brad, good stuff. A couple of questions. Do we know if Frum was retiring, and is so, what was his projected pension? I’m not sure if it’s possible to find that out, I would think the would be confidential employee information. I worked at NCTD several years ago, and I was recall Frum was going to retire in 2014, at a similar time to when his severance ended, so you have to wonder what’s going on there.

    What I’m getting at is Matt Tucker seems to be making a concerted effort to rid the agency of anyone near retirement age/slash in line to receive a pension. I know for a fact two other people near retirement age were let go in 2013, and not at a mangement level. Additionally, prior to December 2013, the 5 year 2.5% rule was still in effect, ie you could get a pension equal to 2.5% of your highest pay if you made 5 years at the agency.

    As it stands today, there can’t be too many folks left who could even make that. I know of two people who got it in the last 2-3 years, although there could be more.

    One more point, in 2012 NCTD changed it’s own bylaws granting Tucker the power’s formerly held by the board, ie the power to hire and fire. Might be worth looking into this in terms of how many folks have left the agency since that time. I think it’s policy 19.

    Either way, the current board is going to need an go back and look at prior decisions made the board to give Tucker all that power. At this point, it doesn’t seem like a good idead.

  2. The things I’ve been told about Frum I cannot confirm, so I can’t go into why he left. As far as Policy 19, we have previously written about that in this story:

    From the story:
    “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.”

    We also did a story on turnover that had some of the information you refer to:
    “Twenty-one of the top 25 senior level employees have left NCTD since Matthew Tucker, once head of transportation for the state of Virginia, took over as CEO in 2009. Some, like Miller, left on their own. Many others were laid off but then replaced with employees who would be laid off and replaced again.”

    Thanks for reading and for commenting.


  3. We don’t care what they appreciate — it’s public information. Their salaries are paid by SD taxpayers. The “Redacted” was what they labeled the document when they sent it to us. Public employee severance agreements are in no way protected or sensitive information.


  4. 70 people leaving the agency in 3-4 years is shockingly wrong. Too bad no one in the public cares, hopefully it won’t take some kind of mishap to make people pay attention.

    When you bring someone in and their only skill is laying people off and making cuts, which is pretty much Tucker’s wheelhouse, you will have issues down the road.

    NCTD board, do not approve Matt Tucker’s contract in December

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