Janitor Making $270K Spends Lots of Time in a Closet: Probe
BART reps scrambling to explain how Liang Zhao Zhang pulled in so much in 2015
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2017 10:43 AM CST
Updated Feb 11, 2017 1:59 PM CST
Bay Area Rapid Transit passengers wait to board a train at the Fruitvale BART station on Oct. 22, 2013, in Oakland, Calif.   (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

(Newser) – There's quite a difference between making $58,000 a year and $270,000, and that huge gap is why some are now poking around to see how a San Francisco janitor has been pulling in the latter. The San Francisco Chronicle reports on Liang Zhao Zhang, who cleans the BART system's station at Powell Street and has a base salary of $57,945, per public records culled by Transparent California. But thanks to about $162,000 in hefty overtime pay and other compensation and benefits, Zhang raked in what amounts to $271,243 in 2015. Robert Fellner, a research director for the watchdog group, tells KTVU he's been keeping an eye on public employee salaries for years and has never seen a janitor get paid such an "obscene" and "unconscionable" amount. Nearly 50 other unaudited BART janitors also earned in the six figures in 2015.

Fellner wants to know, for instance, how the "superhuman" Zhang worked 17-hour days for 18 days in a row during July 2015, a fact found during an analysis of Zhang's timecards, which turned up several "discrepancies and questions." Roy Aguilera, BART's chief transportation officer, says Zhang just grabs extra hours no one wants. But when KTVU gained access to video on BART's security cameras for two random days, it witnessed Zhang head into a storage closet and hole up there for hours (on one day he was in the closet for 90 minutes, then later on for another 78). A BART rep says Zhang may have been fixing equipment or taking a break, though Aguilera tells KTVU there's a dedicated break area elsewhere. Fellner says the situation is a "catastrophic management failure" that should've been audited long ago. (The worst-paying jobs you have to go to college for.)

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