What's going on at the Bureau of Automotive Repair?

I've heard some rumors about goings on at the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR). But first a caveat - I was employed by the BAR and the Department of Consumer Affairs. I also sat on the Inspection and Maintenance Review Committee for almost 9 years.

One rumor involves the STAR Certification program. This is how the BAR describes the program: “STAR stations are Smog Check stations that meet higher performance standards established by the Bureau of Automotive Repair. Some STAR stations are licensed to perform only tests, while others are licensed to perform both tests and repairs. The station is required to post a sign on the services it performs. State law requires that a percentage of vehicles have their Smog Check Inspections performed at a STAR station. It has been controversial since its start.

Sounds like a good idea right? In principle maybe but in action it is very different. There have been many complaints about the system. Here's an example: A technician did not have his license posted as required by law. A BAR employee deletes the technician from the smog machine (in the "old days" we would have given the technician say 24 hours to post his license). A few days later the technician posted his license and was re-installed into the smog machine. Fine right? No; now the station is no longer STAR Certified because the technician is new and no longer has a history for the STAR program to analyze. Dumb; same technician as before and his history should be continued. But the STAR program doesn't recognize this.

This should be easy to correct but evidently it is not. The smog station must file a formal appeal, an appeal that will go before an Administrative Law Judge. Now here is where it gets strange, at least according to my sources who tell me the Attorney General's Office will not take the cases to hearing because they do not believe the BAR's STAR program is defensible. For almost two years the appeals have been building up but never going forward. My sources state that there are about 300 appeals sitting and waiting to be heard.

So what is the BAR going to do? Logically if your attorney, and the AG's Office is the BAR's attorney, doesn't think you have a defensible position shouldn't you drop all the cases and reinstate the Smog Stations' certifications? Not the BAR. My sources said that a limited-term Air Quality Representative has been hired specifically to defend the Star Program. Seems to me that if the AG's office cannot understand the program well enough to defend it then maybe - just maybe - the program is the problem. But that's just me.

On another front I heard that a former BAR employee, Albert Flores, Jr., won a lawsuit against the BAR for over $1.5 million. I hope to have more on this soon but for now here is a synopsis from the law firm that handled the case, Nearsham & Kramer LLP: "On August 28, 2014, following a 3 ½ week trial, a Sacramento Jury awarded NKLLP client Albert Flores, Jr. $1.565 Million in damages against his former employer, the California Dept. of Consumer Affairs Bureau of Automotive Repair.  Mr. Flores was awarded damages for Disability Discrimination, Failure to Provide a Reasonable Accommodation and Failure to Prevent Discrimination."

I have to wonder what happened to the BAR employees (managers) who treated Mr. Flores so badly? But if the BAR follows past patterns absolutely nothing was done to punish them. Heck, maybe they were even promoted. 


mike barry said…
I have been trying to spread the message that the STAR program is inherently flawed to the point of utter nonsense. The metrics are based on a cum hoc fallacy ...


... and should not survive the scrutiny of an unbiased and reasonably intelligent person. I have joined a group of misfits over at ...


... where we have gathered to discuss various smog technician issues, including our almost universal dismay over the "condemn at a distance" policies of the STAR program. Feel free to drop by and comment. You don't even have to join to participate.

Michael T. Barry

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