The San Mateo County Transit District and CalTrain are striking back at a report that they say is “inaccurate,” makes “fundemental mistakes,” and is a result of “poor quality of reporting.”

The report in question, which was published by the Bay Area News Group, alleged that the Executive Director of CalTrain, Mike Scanlon, was paid $400,668 last year.

Chrstine Dunn’s statement on behalf of the district outlines specific claims and misstatements that the transit district disagrees with. Furthermore, Dunn releases their own compensation figures to counter those that had been reported and details which districts paid Mr. Scanlon, and how much each contributed to his total salary.

Lastly, Dunn and other district officials defend the salary that Mr. Scanlon was paid. 

The report that Dunn responds to can be found here, and the entirety of Ms. Dunn’s response can be found below.


A Bay Area News Group (BANG) 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.

“These are difficult times for Caltrain and they demand the very best the industry can provide in leadership, integrity, creativity and work ethic. Mike is second-to-none in all these categories,” said Caltrain Board Chair Sean Elsbernd.

“When you look at Caltrain’s share of Mike’s contract, and add the fact that Caltrain has the lowest administrative costs of any transit agency in the Bay Area — it’s a bargain for the railroad, the customers and the communities we serve.”

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.

“We could hire three CEOs at the lowest compensation possible,” said Omar Ahmad, a member of both the Caltrain and SamTrans Boards. “It would still cost more money and we would have three anemic executives. Instead, we have one rock star at less the cost.”

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.

The BANG story understated the number of employees at the three agencies.

Number of employees – San Mateo County Transit District (regular and contracted)


  • SamTrans FTE*                                      557
  • SamTrans contracted employees            314
  • Caltrain FTE*                                            98
  • Caltrain contracted employees                438
  • TA FTE*                                                   12
  • Total:                                                      1,419

*FTE stands for Full-time Equivalent.

Many employees at the San Mateo County Transit District split their time between the three agencies we serve. As such, there are very few full-time employees at Caltrain or the TA. Rather, most administrative employees bill a portion of their time to Caltrain and the TA.  If all those portions of time were added up, they would be equivalent or equal to a number of full-time employees.

The story also repeats an inaccuracy that originated with BANG’s own reporting – that “administrator” employees received a 14 percent pay raise over three years.

San Mateo County Transit District administrative employees have been working under a wage freeze since July 1, 2008. Mr. Scanlon’s salary has been frozen at its current level since November 1, 2008.