MTA workers made thousands of dollars at unauthorized side jobs, according to IG report

Three MTA workers at various levels of employment have been caught with unauthorized side hustles, according to the latest published investigations from the authority’s inspector general.

A track worker, a superintendent and a white-collar computer specialist raked in thousands of dollars in outside employment while working on MTA time and without proper authorization from the transit authority, the reports found. 

“Rules limiting the scope and type of outside employment that an employee can engage in are designed to ensure that MTA workers remain focused on their job of making our public transit system safe, clean, and reliable for all riders,” MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny said. “Unauthorized outside employment can lead to serious public safety risks, and is particularly troubling when such activity is supported by MTA resources while the employee is supposed to be doing their MTA job.”

While working out of MTA headquarters, the unidentified computer specialist used his MTA phone and computer to conduct business at a computer consulting company he owned — including making more than 500 related calls in the span of roughly a year. The specialist earned between $18,000 and $25,000 from the business in about that time frame without disclosing his outside employment to the authority.

Similarly, the unidentified superintendent was found tending to his unauthorized electronic repairs business while on the MTA clock. The superintendent considered the company a “hobby,” but colleagues apparently got fed up with his distractedness.

Staff at his shop “consistently characterized [the superintendent’s] personal cellphone usage during work hours as excessive,” reads the IG report on the case. “It was also reported that [the superintendent] often would leave his work area to engage in personal phone calls, and at times, could not be found when he was needed.”

The unidentified track worker, when joining the MTA in May of last year, kept a job as a letter carrier for the Postal Service as he debated whether he liked the transit authority job enough to ditch the old gig, according to the report. After taking months of paid and unpaid leave from the Postal Service, the federal agency warned it would take action against him, “forcing his hand” to resign and stick with the transit authority job, the report went on.

In each circumstance, the inspector general has recommended the MTA take disciplinary actions against the workers, including potential termination.

In a separate report issued last month, the inspector general found several more instances of bus and train operators failing to disclose outside employment to the MTA. In one investigation, 36 MTA bus and five train operators were found to be driving professionally for app-based companies without proper authorization, raising safety concerns about workers who are required to get specific amounts of time off to rest between shifts, according to Pokorny.

The MTA responded to the investigations by issuing suspensions to two of the employees. The third was under probation at the time of the IG investigation and has been referred to the probationary unit, according to MTA spokesman Tim Minton.

“As soon as we became aware of the MTA Inspector General’s findings starting in March 2019, we moved quickly to take action,” Minton said in a statement. “We are committed to eliminating fraud and abuse, and appreciate the Office of Inspector General’s investigative efforts.”