MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny is sounding the alarm on the transit agency’s $31 million effort to curtail overtime abuse. Pokorny says the MTA’s slow rollout of modern timekeeping payroll technology is putting the system “at risk.”
She couldn’t be more right. The old-time honor system is too often abused, eroding public confidence and squandering precious transit dollars. Agency honchos need to make the new system a priority.
Pokorny has been on the case ever since the Empire Center’s 2019 report on MTA overtime costs led to The Post’s exposés featuring Long Island Rail Road workers who’d pulled in monster paychecks. In 2019, a devastating audit report by Morrison & Foerster LLP cited LIRR overtime abuses as the most troublesome — in part because of outdated pay rules that persist despite having “little to no modern justification.”
That review assailed MTA management for ignoring past warnings and failing in “its duty to safeguard the public’s funds.”
And the evidence was staggering: “Overtime King” Thomas Caputo, the LIRR’s chief measurement operator, took home a whopping $461,646 in 2018 to become the MTA’s highest-paid employee ever. The Post calculated that Caputo had to have been on-duty 22 hours a day to earn that kind of cash.
Yet it’s been two years since Morrison & Foerster LLP recommended scrapping paper-based OT accounting and switching to “biometric” clocks that scan workers’ fingerprints when they swipe in and out of work, and still the agency has failed to fully implement that and other recommendations.
MTA officials blame the delay on “shifts in organizational priorities” — and, yes, the pandemic (not to mention leadership changes at the top and in the governorship) must have rattled their workday.
But with ridership — and fare revenue — still well below pre-pandemic levels, New York’s transit system is going to need to hang on to every dollar it gets, especially after federal COVID and infrastructure funds run dry. Ending payroll and OT abuse is vital to that effort.