OAKLAND (CBS SF) — Bay Area Rapid Transit General Manager Dorothy Dugger submitted a letter of resignation Wednesday after getting a nearly $1 million payout to leave the agency.

The resignation was expected after a majority of the transit agency’s board of directors recently voted behind closed doors to fire her, but the embattled Dugger receiving $958,000 to quit her post was a public surprise.

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That amount included the $600,000 cost of Dugger’s severance package if she had been terminated, plus $350,000 to “ensure a smooth transition and avoid any litigation between the parties,” BART board members said in a statement.

In a Feb. 10 closed session of the board, members immediately rescinded their decision to fire Dugger after BART’s legal counsel said their action was illegal because the meeting agenda only listed a performance appraisal for Dugger, not a possible vote to fire her.

Because there was the potential for a lawsuit against the board, a four-member committee discussed and reached a settlement with Dugger to resign, according to board members.

Dugger, who has served as the agency’s general manager since August 2007 and has been with BART for 19 years, will officially step down on April 22. She was the first woman to hold the top post.

KCBS’ Anna Duckworth Reports:

The board will hold a special closed session on Thursday to discuss the search for Dugger’s replacement and consider naming an interim general manager.

BART Board President Bob Franklin said he hoped that the search for a permanent general manager would begin soon but it may take up to five months or more to hire someone.

BART Director James Fang, who was first elected in 1990 and is the board’s longest-serving member, said one person who had been suggested to be the interim general manager is former BART general counsel Sherwood Wakeman, who retired in July 2007.

Franklin, Fang, John McPartland, Robert Raburn and Tom Radulovich voted to fire Dugger at the Feb. 10 meeting.

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The directors who voted to retain her were Tom Blalock, Joel Keller, Gail Murray and Lynette Sweet.

Franklin declined to say Wednesday why he voted to fire Dugger, saying only that he wanted to thank her “for her tireless work and lifelong dedication to public service.”

Fang said, “Everyone recognizes the hard work she’s put in for the transit district over her 19-year career. I’m appreciative of her work and wish her well in her next career.”

Raburn simply said, “Dorothy has been very gracious in her resignation.”

Dugger was unavailable for comment, but she said in a statement issued through BART, “I am extremely proud of all that we have achieved and BART’s strong record of accomplishment.”

Dugger said, “It has been a challenging, exciting and professionally rewarding experience to lead a great organization that provides a vitally important service to the people of the Bay Area every day.”

Dugger worked as BART’s executive manager for external affairs for two years after joining the transit agency in September 1992 and then served as deputy general manager, the agency’s second-ranking job, for 13 years before being appointed general manager on Aug. 23, 2007.

She is BART’s eighth general manager having served in that role for the past four years.

Dugger grew up on a chicken farm in Alabama. After college she worked in the environmental protection field in Washington, D.C., and as governmental affairs director for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey before coming to BART.

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