MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – At least one MTA board member is calling for harsh punishment for overtime offenders.
Now Gov. Andrew Cuomo is adding his voice, and when he says fix it or else, the “or else” usually means off with your head – or as he put it toda, “Plan B,” reports CBS2’s Marica Kramer.
“If there is fraud, I want to board members to get to the bottom of it,” said Cuomo on Friday.
The massive overtime scandal at the MTA has many demanding the agency take action, which is why the the chair of the agency called for an emergency meeting on Friday.
According to the MTA, overtime costs were up $122 million last year.
That includes the nearly $460,000 paycheck raked in by the LIRR’s chief measurement officer thanks to a staggering $344,000 in overtime. That adds up to 3,800 hours in extra shifts.
MTA board member Larry Schwartz is demanding that the MTA hire a former prosecutor as an independent investigator to bring overtime violators to justice.
“That is impossible. Nobody can work that many hours a day. Are you going to tell me that you didn’t take a sick day in 2018? You didn’t take a vacation day? I don’t believe it. Nobody believes it,” said Schwartz. “People need to either go to jail. They need to be prosecuted. And we need to collect the money that they stole.”
Cuomo had top aide Melissa DeRosa send a blisteing email to MTA officials demanding that they “immediately” deal with a laundry list of faliures including protracted construction at Grand Central Terminal, not enough cops to deal with “violence and repulsive behavior” in subway stations, and the time used for performing maintenance on subway trains.
DeRosa wrote: “It has come to our attention that the MTA stops trains in the evening for eight hour stretches to do repair work, but… Only achieves approximately three hours of work… Even more unacceptable. The MTA pays for the entire eight-hour work shift… Please explain the possible justification for this.”
This comes as the MTA has decided to assign agency cops to take attendance at LIRR facilities. Sources tell CBS2 there’s a concern that people are clocking in for coworkers.
The chairman of the union that represents LIRR workers called the move “insulting,” saying the officers should be out fighting crime. Schwartz’s charges provoked an intense and emotional debate from union members on the board present at Friday’s meeting.
“You need to somehow infuse some competence into this MTA and you need to stop blaming your workers,” said John Samuelsen of the TWU Local 100. “Any transit worker, any rail road worker that does a lick more than they have to do for you, after you sent armed cops into our workplaces, is crazy.”
“It was never my intention, I tried to say that up front, to besmirch the majority of good, hard working rank and file,” said Schwartz.
MTA chair Patrick Foye ordered the heads of different transit to check the books, giving them 60 days to do a full review of overtime procedures and regulations. Findings will be made public.
On Friday evening Foye released a statement promising the continue getting answers about the overtime issue.
“I support the MTA proceeding with retaining special counsel to conduct an investigation of the timekeeping and attendance systems of the MTA and overtime abuse,” he wrote. “We owe the taxpayers and our customers an explanation of how some have abused the system and ensure it never happens again.”