Some 90 NYC Transit workers were found to have misused unpaid leave benefits, including one signal maintainer who took family leave for their honeymoon and to coach a nonprofit baseball team, according to the authority’s inspector general.
The office of newly minted Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny detailed those findings and more Wednesday in the MTA’s annual report of investigations from 2018, offering brief summaries of worker misconduct and mismanagement at the 74,000-employee transportation authority.
There were several reports of bus and train operators taking unauthorized side jobs. In one investigation, 36 MTA bus and five train operators were found to be driving professionally for e-hail companies without proper authorization, raising safety concerns for workers who are required to get specific amounts of time off to rest between shifts.
Pokorny, appointed to her post by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo this spring, said the report was part of a new push for transparency at her office and in it took note of the “tens of thousands of hardworking and honest MTA employees, and the millions of riders and taxpayers who support the agency, [and] want and deserve an advocate with a serious compliance attitude, and the integrity and independence to look out for them.”
She said during a statement announcing the report that her office would make full investigations and audits available, where appropriate, “to ensure full transparency and accountability regarding the Inspector General’s efforts to root out waste, fraud and abuse, and recommend necessary steps for positive change at the MTA.” Publishing such investigations would become “standard practice,” she said.
The MTA said it has taken action on the IG’s recommendations from the reports issued over the year.
“We’re pleased to see these reports released and, as they are from 2018, have already implemented or are in the process of implementing the recommendations they contain,” said MTA spokesman Maxwell Young. “We will continue to collaborate closely with the Inspector General’s office to root out waste, fraud and abuse.”
Labor-oriented MTA board members like John Samuelsen and Norman Brown have taken issue with Pokorny in the past — specifically her news release and subsequent tweet from June detailing a damaged screen of a timekeeping clock in a Brooklyn MTA facility. Pokorny characterized the damage as an apparent act of worker “sabotage” while failing to mention that the clock was used by supervisors and was still functioning.
“You really haven’t in my mind precluded that it could have been entirely an accident, entirely unrelated to sabotage,” said Brown at last month’s board meeting, adding “to characterize something as ‘sabotage’ that you don’t know is sabotage is sort of throwing gasoline on a fire.”
Pokorny stood by her characterization and at another point during that meeting, assured her independence from the MTA, its board and the governor.
“I will tell you he appointed me, and by statute I have reporting requirements. … I will be exercising my independence and judgment, along with my career professionals in my office, as to how that work is carried out,” Pokorny said.