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Former SF Muni Instructor Says Favoritism In Training Is Putting Public Safety At Risk

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- Allegations of favoritism have surfaced at Muni Metro's Light Rail training division in San Francisco.

Mustafa Mohamed is a transit supervisor in Muni's light rail department, a high ranking position in what's considered the most elite division of the SFMTA. Despite knowing he's taking a risk, he's blowing the whistle on what he says has been going on.

"First and foremost, it is a safety concern. We are allowing people that are unqualified out there operating the rails," said Mohamed.

As an instructor, Mohamed says he was in charge of coaching students through an intensive 40 day, hands-on driving course. He says with every new class, he felt pressure to pass some who weren't qualified.

"There are people who can't even tell what track they are on," said Mohamed.

Testing records for one student show he was disciplined for a serious violation--failure to stop at a stop sign--and given what should have been one more chance.

"He was on what's called last chance. He went on to make multiple mistakes after that, including running stop signs. But he was passed," said Mohamed.

Another student was also written up in a conference for failing to recognize a stop sign. A week later, the student again failed a brake test, was retested, failed a second time, then passed the brake test on the third time after review.

Mohamed recommended this person be eliminated from the program, but he says his decision was overruled. That student is now an operator, with two major derailments on his record.

"I was pressured into changing evaluations and omitting certain mistakes from the evaluations," said Mohamed.

While certain students that performed poorly went on the graduate from the LRV training program, Mohamed says he was also pressured to fail others he felt could have passed, like Algerine Clayton. "It didn't matter what I said, it was already set up," said Clayton.

She's been driving Muni buses for 20 years and says she studied hard to try to get into the higher paying LRV division.

"All my written tests were good my road testing was excellent," she said. She failed her final test, but in her case, was not given a last chance.

"I was one of those that they didn't want," she said.

She says Mohamed was known within the program for getting rid of the students she believes he was told were not wanted there. Another transit operator we spoke to who wanted to remain anonymous said the same thing:

"Mohamed was getting orders to wash people out and disqualify them from the program," she said. She told us Mohamed was the reason she failed the class, and she says she didn't deserve it."

Muni turned down our request for an interview, but in a statement told us: "We take allegations like these very seriously, which is why we initiated an investigation."

Mohamed admits he's been part of the problem. He told us he feels guilty now, and complicit. Since speaking out he says he's suffered retaliation. He's no longer allowed to train students, a job he loved. But he has no regrets.

"If we are dishonest as a training department what does that say for the rest of the agency? We are responsible for the type of operators that go out there," said Mohamed.

We've learned the San Francisco City Attorney has received several complaints about the allegations. The office won't comment further.

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