A BART janitor made $270,000 in a year and some people are wondering why

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(This post originally appeared on The Washington Post)

Last year, a janitor working for San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit System (BART) made $270,000. Most of it came from benefits and $162,000 in overtime. The whopping amount is raising a few eyebrows.

Was it all earned?

At first, it seems like the janitor in question, Liang Zhao Zhang, is just a very, very hard-working guy. An investigation by local TV station KTVU found that Zhang was paid for every single day in 2015. He also worked overtime most of the time. During one stretch in July of that year, Zhang worked 17-hour days for 18 days straight.

“Super human!” said Robert Fellner, whose government watchdog group Transparent California has examined public employee salary information for years. He says he’s never seen anything like this. BART’s Chief Transportation Officer Roy Aguilera says it’s possible because Zhang never refuses extra work and picks up much of the overtime hours offered, according to the KTVU report.

“People are not raising their hands and saying,’I want some of that overtime.’ Mr. Zhang has said yes, he’s worked hard, he’s completed his assignments, so I stand by the work he’s done,” Aguilera said.

Others are not so sure. The agency running BART has never audited Zhang, or the 49 other janitors who made more than $100,000 that year. The KTVU investigation found alleged discrepancies in Zhang’s performance and time sheets.

Personally, I hope that these questions are satisfactorily resolved in Zhang’s favor. I hope he earned every penny of that $270,000 for doing the kind of work that many wouldn’t want. But in the meantime…when was the last time you (or your accountant) took a close look your company’s payroll records?

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