The MTA ‘shifts priorities’ jeopardizes overtime reforms

The MTA’s outdated overtime system continues to work OT for cash fraud, as the agency’s $ 31 million effort to curb potential wage theft is “at risk”, according to the agency’s inspector general.

The many millions of efforts to prevent overtime are being abused as officials slowly roll the integration of modern timekeeping into the government’s pay systems, according to IG’s latest quarterly review of the program’s progress.

Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny’s office said “changes in organizational priorities” have left the multi-year effort in limbo – even as MTA staff raise charges of stealing time under a decades-old OT paper-dependent “honor system”.

The challenge is “overcome,” IG said in the report, if MTA’s new leadership under Governor Kathy Hochul wants to address it: “If management plans to abandon efforts so far into the project, then it should be transparent about it. it says in the report.

Pokorny’s office has been keeping an eye on the MTA’s overtime reforms since 2019, after The Post revealed allegations of overtime following a series of revelations by LIRR workers pulling in large pay slips.

general view of a Long Island Railroad train or LIRR train as seen at Penn Station in New York, NY on August 6, 2020.
Carolyn Pokorny’s office has been keeping an eye on the MTA’s overtime reforms since 2019.
Christopher Sadowski

Many of MTA’s supervisors “completely relied on employee honesty” by handing out OT – creating an “honor system” filled with opportunities for fraud, Pokorny said.

This unsupervised collection of OT salaries has also resulted in several lawsuits – including by MTA’s 2018 “Overtime King” Thomas Caputo, an LIRR employee who FB said conspired with colleagues to get jobs on mega projects where they could get away with to sleep or play hooky out of sight of LIRR management.

The MTA, under former chairman Pat Foye, hired Morrison & Foerster LLP in 2019 to develop a plan to prevent and catch fraud in the future. The company urged officials to scrap paper-based OT accounts for “biometric” watches that require workers to swipe in and out of work, and scan their fingerprints when doing so.

Janno dear
Gov. Kathy Hochul has said she plans to nominate Janno Lieber for a full term.
Paul Martinka

Transit executives have waived the fingerprint requirement since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to IG. Meanwhile, Kronos turnout fell in the third quarter of 2021 compared to earlier in the year – something officials only investigated after IG’s office made them aware of it, the report said.

Until Kronos and payroll are fully integrated and digitized, management will lack key tools to verify OT payrolls and catch scammers, IG said.

“Integration is a vital component of MTA’s overtime reforms that my office has demonstrated are critically needed by exposing bad actors and emphasizing the need to reduce wasteful, unverifiable overtime across the MTA,” Pokorny said.

Governor Kathy Hochul
The challenge is “overcome” if the MTA’s new leadership under Governor Kathy Hochul wants to rectify it.
William Miller

The report also blamed delays on “turnover in project managers”, alluding to the resignation of Chief Operating Officer and Chief of the Overtime Reform Task Force Mario Peloquin in March.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo replaced Foye with MTA Construction Tsar Janno Lieber in July. Hochul has said she plans to nominate Lieber for a full term. Pokorny is also a Cuomo nominee.

The MTA noted that OT spending has fallen since 2018.

“The MTA continues to address how best to achieve full integration of Kronos’ pay system,” said spokesman Mike Cortez in a statement. “The measures already implemented have resulted in annual overtime costs falling by hundreds of millions of dollars, and we are committed to further material reductions in overtime costs.”

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