“Fired Muni Driver Wins Reinstatement”

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“Fired Muni Driver Wins Reinstatement”

“Fired Muni Driver Wins Reinstatement”

“Fired Muni Driver Wins Reinstatement”

San Francisco Chronicle, April 3, 2015

After nine years as a Muni bus driver, Andrew Sisneros was fired in 2011 for conduct that the transit system considered dishonesty on the job — wearing a parka and hood that hid most of his face while handling a video camera on another driver’s bus.

Muni first accused Sisneros of tampering with the camera, then decided he was trying to conceal his identity to avoid suspicion.

But a state appeals court noted it was a cold night, the parka and hood were part of Sisneros’ Muni-issued jacket, and he spoke openly to a superintendent about the incident as soon as he learned it was under investigation.

“There simply was no substantial evidence on this record to support a finding of dismissal for dishonesty,” the First District Court of Appeal said Thursday in a decision that ordered Sisneros reinstated, with back pay and benefits.

The ruling “will make a big difference in his life,” said Sisneros’ lawyer, Bryan Schwartz. He said Sisneros, 50, has been bagging groceries for just above the minimum wage.

Deputy City Attorney Jon Rolnick, who represented San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency, said the city attorney’s office was disappointed by the ruling and would discuss a possible appeal with the agency.

The incident took place in October 2010, when a fellow driver discovered problems with his DriveCam, the camera that records events inside the bus and can be automatically triggered by hard braking or sudden acceleration. Muni had installed the cameras in 2009 and told drivers they could be fired for tampering with the devices.

Sisneros said his colleague asked him to fix the camera, and he went in and out of the bus several times, pressing a reset button that activated the camera. A Muni safety official who saw the photos suspected tampering, and when Sisneros heard about the investigation, he spoke to a superintendent, identified himself in the pictures and explained his actions.

The superintendent accused Sisneros of tampering and recommended his dismissal. In his appeal, an arbitrator found no evidence of tampering but said Sisneros should be fired for trying to conceal his identity. Transit executives and a Superior Court judge agreed, but the appeals court saw it differently.

Sisneros violated no transit agency rules and had no evident motive — and made no effort — to hide his identity, said Justice Marla Miller in the 3-0 ruling.

Bob Egelko is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer.
E-mail: begelko@sfchronicle.com
Twitter: @egelko

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