Metro-North Railroad supervisors signed their own fraudulent time cards, workers were paid for travel to job sites they never went to and day-shift employees were put on late shifts that required them to rest the next day, at full pay. In the end, a report by New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli says, a small signal unit racked up more than $1.2 million in overtime and regular pay, and $5.5 million in future pension pay.
The report said that supervisors also tried to hide the abuses, most of which involved overtime, by shifting payroll costs to unrelated projects.
DiNapoli told WNYC the findings are disturbing. "It really gets to a culture of tolerance and acceptance of practices that really don't make any sense from a cost point of view at a time when the MTA very much needs to be more efficient and not waste money," he said.
The report said the most common abuse by the unit was to take advantage of a federal rule that requires railroad employees to rest for ten hours after working 12 hours, which was designed to prevent riders from being placed in the hands of fatigued motormen and other equipment operators.
Auditors in DiNapoli's office found supervisors allowed day workers to pull a 12-hour night shift, at overtime pay, that required them to rest the next day while being paid their regular wage. The report said one worker did the maneuver enough times that his lifetime pension benefits are now $1.5 million more than they would have been based on base salary alone.
"These payments occurred because of a pervasive culture of management acceptance of long-term practices, employee feelings of entitlement to additional compensation, and ineffective internal controls in Metro-North’s payroll office," the report stated.
The MTA said its audit department is tightening payroll controls and cooperating with an investigation by the authority's inspector general.
The MTA also issued a statement that said, "Metro-North took steps last summer to ensure that signal supervisors no longer sign their own timecards."