11/10/2011 10:56 am ET | Updated Jan 10, 2012

MTA Overtime Pay Abuses Padded Pensions: Audit

By MICHAEL GORMLEY - Associated Press

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Overtime abuses that padded pensions totaled more than $1 million at the authority that runs New York City's transit system, according to an audit released Wednesday.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said workers at the Metro North and Harlem lines of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority inflated salaries and pensions through the practice that included supervisors signing off on their own time cards.

DiNapoli said supervisors would boost employees' overtime pay by assigning day workers to night duties. A federal rule then required the employee to rest for a full pay day on the next shift.

"MTA management has tolerated a manipulation of the system by both supervisors and workers who have enjoyed the perks of having a daytime shift for jobs that need to be done at nights and on weekends," DiNapoli said.

He said federal laws created to protect riders were "exploited to enrich employees at the expense of taxpayers."

The MTA's inspector general is investigating and the authority has already taken several corrective measures. Last summer, the MTA stopped the practice in which signal supervisors signed their own time cards.

"Metro-North continues to focus on reducing overtime costs across our organization, and we appreciate the assistance of the comptroller in this effort," said MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan.

The MTA will also seek changes in the labor contract to change some provisions that limit the authority's ability to schedule staffing, Donovan said.

"With regard to allegations of inappropriate payments to individuals, Metro-North is cooperating" with the MTA's inspector general, Donovan said. "Metro-North also is working with the MTA Audit Department to improve payroll controls."

The longstanding practice boosted six employees' pensions by $5.5 million, said DiNapoli, a Democrat who is the state pension system's trustee and audits government operations.

The findings were a result of a so-called forensic audit that DiNapoli promised a year ago after the MTA sought toll and fare increases. DiNapoli says more audits will come soon.