Cuomo calls for investigation into possible overtime fraud at MTA

Gov. Andrew Cuomo reiterated his call for an investigation into overtime practices at the MTA.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo reiterated his call for an investigation into overtime practices at the MTA. Photo Credit: Todd Maisel

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo railed against MTA management practices on Sunday, following an emergency meeting Friday that addressed abuse of overtime.

Cuomo derided as fraud the allegations that some employees claimed to have worked more hours than would be physically possible. He said an investigation was needed to reveal "how widespread the fraud, or possible fraud, is" as well as how the MTA missed it.  The governor effectively controls the MTA.

The terse words come after Cuomo’s representative on the MTA Board, Lawrence Schwartz, proposed at the Friday meeting hiring a former prosecutor to investigate "constant" abuse of overtime. The authority also announced Friday that five Long Island Rail Road employees are facing sanctions for overtime abuse. 

"For the MTA, the issue with them is: what kind of management system did you have in place? There’s no excuse, in my opinion," Cuomo said Sunday, while speaking at his Manhattan office  during an unrelated news conference. "This is about people saying they worked and charging the taxpayers, when they didn’t work. It’s stealing. It’s criminal."

A report released last month by the nonprofit Empire Center for Public Policy showed that some MTA employees made shockingly high overtime rates. LIRR chief measurement officer Thomas Caputo, for example, made $344,147 in overtime on top of his base salary of $117,499 in 2018. 

Sky-high MTA overtime is not necessarily new. The LIRR, for example, reported overtime came in more than $3 million over budget in 2019, and it has increased more than 50 percent over the last four years.

There was talk Friday among some LIRR workers of protesting the MTA’s move by refusing overtime work this weekend, which Ricardo Sanchez, general chairman of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 589, directed his members not to participate in and which John Samuelsen, international president of the Transport Workers Union — the MTA’s largest union — did not condone.

The Long Island Rail Road was not immediately able to say whether the action occurred. The Transport Workers Union did not comment on  it on the record. 

Samuelsen, however, previously said a drop in productivity would not surprise him. He also called the allegation of fraud unfounded and "genuinely stupid."

On Sunday, Cuomo knocked that concept.

"If a union president wants to support criminality, then that’s a very basic problem, and I think a basic mistake," Cuomo said. "We get it: I know we authorized the overtime. We never authorized fraud and theft and criminality."

Samuelsen responded, calling it "ridiculous on the face of it" that he would support criminal activity.

"We are absolutely in favor of an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, whether it be straight time or overtime," he said. "These, so far, have been hyperbolic accusations about fraud and abuse … I know for sure there’s going to be absolute total rank-and-file anger toward the MTA and toward the governor for continuing to take these unsupported cheap shots." 

with Newsday 

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