NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Insults were traded at a heated MTA board meeting over a blistering report that the agency turned a blind eye to soaring overtime costs and cushy union contracts.
Making matters even worse – bus and subway riders could face service cuts this fall.
“We’ve got hundreds of millions of dollars and in the out years a billion dollars to solve for,” MTA chair Patrick Foye said.
Foye is threatening unspecified bus and subway service cuts, which could come of something of a shock to riders who just saw fares go up a few months ago.
Foye tried to soften the blow by saying the cuts will not “be focused on areas where you don’t have crowded trains or crowded buses.”
It was unclear if the threat would really amount to serious cuts or if it was intended to distract attention from a devastating MTA-commissioned report.
The report found that – out of ineptitude or disinterest – the agency ignored soaring overtime costs fueled by generous labor contracts and archaic paper time-keeping systems.
“The MTA’s controls and time-keeping metrics are weak and thus the MTA is not able to determine why overtime payments have increased so rapidly or whether there is a widespread problem with fraud, waste, and abuse,” Carrie Cohen, the MTA outside auditor explained in the damning review.
The agency paid out $1.3 billion in overtime last year. That’s a 53-percent increase from 2014.
Those figures included the LIRR employee who took home $462,000 last year – $344,000 in overtime. That amount equals a mind boggling 3,800 hours.
The outside auditor was hired several months ago at the insistence of MTA finance chair Larry Schwartz – who first made the demand during an interview with CBS2 in May.
Board member John Samuelson, who is also president of the Transport Workers of America, was infuriated by that.
“The appearance that there are problems, that there are problems with overtime, were triggered by you, it’s at your feet,” Samuelson claimed.
“There’s blood on your hands because transit workers were assaulted in the aftermath of your accusations about rampant fraud, which has still not produced a lick of evidence,” the union boss added.
“You spoke hyperbolically in an anti-worker manner.”
Larry Schwartz fired right back at the Transport Workers of America president.
“You can be critical of me John, you just gotta tell the truth,” Schwartz said.
“I gotta tell the truth, the whole room is laughing at that comment,” Samuelson replied.
Afterwards Schwartz had more to say about the Samuelson outburst.
“Unfortunately John sometimes likes to act like the Donald Trump of mass transit. It’s all fake news, it’s all distortion.”
Schwartz insisted that the MTA come up with a plan to adopt the auditor’s recommendations – which could involve work rules changes. He threatened to not approve agency spending requests unless a plan is in place by next month.