Gov. Andrew Cuomo had harsh words on Sunday for MTA employees accused of padding their paychecks with excessive overtime, calling it "stealing" and "fraud."
The New York Post reported last month that some employees of the Long Island Rail Road claimed they worked thousands of hours in overtime last year. One track worker filed for $250,000 in overtime, quadrupling his base pay, while one measurement operator's salary swelled to more than $460,000.
"This is about stealing. This is about fraud. This is about people saying they work and charging the taxpayers when they didn’t work. It’s stealing. It’s criminal," said Cuomo at a news conference at his midtown office, according to the Post. "So this has nothing to do with overtime. It has to do with theft and fraud, and that’s criminal."
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Cuomo asked why MTA management didn't clamp down on the excessive claims. "This is not a new issue for the MTA," he said. "They have been criticized for years on lack of an effective time and attendance system. Why didn’t they change it? Why didn't they fix it? There’s no excuse in my opinion."
The governor said that an independent investigator should be appointed to do an audit. "Find out, A, to the extent they can, how widespread the fraud, or possible fraud, is, and B, explain to the MTA what management system has failed that has allowed this to go on and didn’t catch it,” said Cuomo.
John Samuelsen, president of the Transport Workers Union, refuted Cuomo's characterization of the issue. "Of course, I support an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. There is no systemic abuse or criminality [in overtime],” he told the Post, calling Cuomo's comments a “smokescreen about a problem that doesn’t exist."
On Apr. 23, the Empire Center's fiscal watchdog SeeThroughNY reported that the LIRR paid $224.6 million in overtime in 2018, up nearly $50 million from the previous year. The entire MTA paid out $1.3 billion in overtime, up from $1.2 billion in 2017.
Two days later, MTA chairman Pat Foye called for a crackdown on overtime abuse.
Meanwhile, the MTA's latest fare hikes went into effect on Easter Sunday, boosting the price of a monthly LIRR pass by up to $15. A 30-day unlimited MetroCard rose from $121 to $127, and a seven-day pass from $32 to $33.