Union Says NY Subway Inspection Fraud Arrests Miss the Mark, Big Perpetrators Are Getting Off

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NYC subway signal. (photo by CC by Flickr user HelveticaFanatic)

(New York, NY - WNYC) Ten NY transit workers are set to be arrested Friday for allegedly falsifying records about how many subway signals they inspected in the years prior to 2009. But the low-level inspectors aren't the real criminals in the so-called "signalgate" scandal, says Transport Workers Union president John Samuelsen. He slammed the planned arrests, saying managers are the culprits.

The NY Daily News first reported the story; a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance confirmed to TN that the arrests are pending.

The signals keep trains moving smoothly and prevent them from crashing into each other. The MTA's own investigation released in 2010 found maintenance goals were not being met and records were falsified "on a widespread basis" to cover that up.

Samuelsen said the workers, who are expected to be charged with felonies, are low level signal maintainers and managers who were assigned excessive workloads. He said their supervisors may also have falsified their inspection records without the workers' knowledge.

"It's astounding to us that the senior level bosses that orchestrated this entire charade, this entire issue that led to fraudulent signal inspections, have been untouched by the district attorney," Samuelsen said.

He said senior management "put severe pressure on low-level field level supervisors and signal maintainers to perform fraudulent signal inspections."

Samuelsen further maintained that that a bar code system used to verify work "was so corrupt that any over-zealous manager could input an employee’s identification credentials and sign for as much equipment as he felt necessary."

The real perpetrators of subway signal inspection fraud, he claims, have so far gone untouched despite an investigation by NY MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger. "There's an absolute witch hunt going on here against transit workers and low level supervisors," Samuelson said, " while the big bosses hide behind the curtains."

Neither the Manhattan District Attorney's office nor Kluger would comment further on the case.

But MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg weighed in. He said, "If Mr. Samuelsen has any information that people involved in fraudulent signal inspections have not been prosecuted, he should present it to the district attorney."

NY MTA Signal Division Chairman John Chiarello told WNYC that TWU members arrested in the Signalgate investigation could expect to be backed by the union as they make their way through the legal system. "Leadership of the union is going to stand behind the members and we’re going to defend them," he said.