A senior MTA bus supervisor evaded toll charges by blocking his car’s plates and owed more than $100,000 in tolls and fees spanning almost a decade, according to an investigation by the agency’s Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny released Monday, Sept. 27.
The assistant general superintendent in question apparently bragged to his co-workers about dodging the charges he owed to three different state tolling agencies, including tens of thousands of dollars to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s own Bridges and Tunnels division (B&T), according to the probe.
“MTA management is supposed to model ethical behavior, not violate it,” said Pokorny in a statement. “That a supervisor would unscrupulously steal toll dollars from New Yorkers –and have the nerve to brag about it on the job – is a slap in the face to the rest of the dedicated, hardworking MTA employees who keep New York moving.”
The corrupt transit manager, whom officials are choosing not to identify and is labeled as “AG Superintendent” in the report, worked out of MTA’s East New York bus depot in Brooklyn where he oversaw everyday maintenance of buses.
After getting an anonymous tip about his delinquent behavior, investigators with the Office of Inspector General (OIG) found that the Brooklyn dodger had $9,000 in unpaid tolls and $92,000 in fees across three E-ZPass and Tolls by Mail accounts from early 2011-September, 2020, including $30,000 owed to B&T.
He accumulated the other debts from dodging tolls at facilities managed by the New York State Thruway Authority and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
Inspectors also discovered he had no front plate on his gray Nissan Sentra and an opaque plastic covering over his rear plate, while visiting his workplace.
In interviews with the internal agency watchdogs, the superintendent claimed his front plate was missing due to a car crash and that he put a cover on the back to protect the plate from peeling during bad weather, “nothing more,” denying it was to avoid paying tolls.
OIG made a spot check comparing security camera records from B&T to its tolling logs during a six-month period in 2020 and found that the superintendent’s car was able to pass free-of-charge on about 11 out of 80 trips, or almost 14% of the time.
Despite mounting unpaid tolls, the superintendent avoided having his vehicle registration suspended by the Department of Motor Vehicles by trading in his license plates before the DMV got wind of suspension notices, and OIG found four different plates attached to his vehicle since it was registered in 2017.
In response to the findings, MTA’s New York City Transit, which runs the subways and buses, demoted him and suspended him without pay for 12 weeks — a loss of $32,592 — while the B&T division agreed to settle his outstanding debts for more than $10,000.
“This reprehensible conduct is an alleged violation of public trust that has no place at the MTA,” said agency spokesman Michael Cortez in a statement. “Our Bridge and Tunnel officers regularly stop vehicles with fake and obscured license plates, regardless of who is perpetrating the theft of public funds. The employee was immediately suspended, and after an arbitration hearing was demoted and required to make restitution.”
The OIG has also forwarded their findings to the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) accusing him of violating the public trust, to the DMV for breaking vehicle and traffic laws for his disguised and missing plates, and to the other two tolling agencies he owes.