Three additional MTA employees have been suspended and ordered to pay back stolen funds in part of an ongoing overtime theft crackdown, the investigatory arm of the transit agency announced Monday.
MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny released two new reports detailing the repeated abuse by three LIRR supervisors of falsifying time cards and bringing in overtime time funds for hours when the employees were not on the job site.
“These managers found a way to double their salaries through overtime, and yet we caught them doing everything from shopping and gambling, to carpooling their kids and doing work around the house – all on the taxpayer’s dime,” Pokorny said in a statement.
In one case that involved six months of surveillance by the OIG's office, a surfacing foreman was caught on 10 separate occasions either at home or other locations not related to work during hours he claimed to be on the clock. The inspector general's report estimates the foreman received $1,131 in unauthorized pay based on the hours he was absent from work on the 10 days in question.
In addition to abuses during working hours, the fraud investigation determined the foreman also abused sick hours. Back in Dec. 2019, the employee took paid sick leave for two back-to-back days. According to records from the Tropicana Resort and Casino in Atlantic City, the foreman spent those two days in the hotel gambling. In interviews with investigators, the report claims the foreman stated he may have been sick following bad food he ate while in Atlantic City but records show the man had booked the hotel room a month in advance.
The OIG recommended discipline up to and including termination as well as restitution for hours he did not work. That office said the foreman waived his right to trial and admitted to the charges in October, leading to a 30-day suspension without pay and order to pay $1,131.
Two other supervisors, a track foreman and track surfacing foreman, similarly earned 30-day suspensions and restitution payments for the workplace abuses. The former ordered to pay back $2,197.32 and the latter $497.39 after admitting to the charges brought against them.
"In addition to time abuse and submitting false filings, they failed in their supervisory responsibility. By being absent during their work hours, both foremen left their crew unsupervised and disregarded their duty to oversee the employees’ safety and work performance, including ensuring proper time and attendance," their report stated.
In the case of all three LIRR supervisors, each earned roughly double their regular pay in overtime in 2018, 2019 and 2020, according to the inspector general reports.
“Fraud or abuse of timekeeping is unacceptable," Aaron Donovan, an MTA spokesperson, told News 4. "The new leadership at the MTA is working with our labor partners to build off of recently implemented measures that have resulting in annual overtime expenditures dropping by hundreds of millions of dollars despite the historic amount of work being completed.”
The latest busts of employee overtime fraud are part of an ongoing effort to detect and stop abuse within the MTA. It was almost one year ago that federal and local officials announced charges against five current and former MTA employees accused of collectively earning more than $1 million in fraudulently-obtained overtime pay.
The workers allegedly volunteered for overtime and then claimed to have been working the times when they were in fact at home or at other non-work locations, including bowling alleys and family vacations. Pokorny on Monday said the criminal matters were still pending.
"My office will continue to hold management accountable for the overtime reforms that they have pledged to implement," she said.
LIRR track foremen are now required to punch in each day using the Kronos system.