LIRR let workers earn big with ‘fraudulent’ travel-time pay: MTA IG
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The Long Island Rail Road gravy train keeps on chugging.
MTA Inspector General Carolyn Pokorny on Friday accused the commuter rail agency of allowing a group of workers to fraudulently rake in tens of thousands of dollars for “travel time’’ — as much as eight hours a shift — while supposedly on the job, thanks to an unofficial and unchecked practice of paying wages for going back and forth between job sites.
Six railroad employees reaped in the illicit dough, Pokorny said in three newly released reports based on investigations conducted in 2019 and 2020.
The workers were able to enrich themselves thanks to the LIRR’s unofficial “travel time” policy, which is not spelled out in the railroad’s labor contracts, the IG said.
“It’s unfortunate that decades of lax management at the LIRR grandfathered in the expensive practice of paying for employees’ ‘travel time’ — even though such time was not clearly granted by the Collective Bargaining Agreement,” she said in a statement.
“Some employees abused this practice to rack up thousands in fraudulent travel time claims.”
One man was caught collecting regular and OT pay for hours spent away from work on 16 different occasions over three months, for a total of about 43 falsified hours, the IG said. IG investigators used the GPS on the the cheat’s MTA-issued vehicle and found it sitting outside his home while he claimed to be on the clock.
The utility worker retired in 2018 after being contacted by the IG’s office and in January agreed to pay back $20,000 of the approximately $86,000 in OT he earned in his last eight months with the railroad.
The five other employees cited in the reports earned “excessive” travel-time payments totaling $67,910 while under investigation, the IG said. All but one — Raymond Murphy — were not named in the report.
Murphy, a foreman with the LIRR’s Buildings and Bridges Department, was caught by the IG at or near his home on 10 occasions while on duty in 2018, The Post reported last year.
Despite the IG’s assertion that the hours were dishonestly earned, railroad officials concluded that a portion of the hours were not in violation of the longstanding “travel time” policy and only recouped around $50,000 in that case.
In another example of potentially costly agency ineptitude, an engineering supervisor was allowed to tele-work, managing a team of subordinates, from North Carolina for years without proper approval, Pokorny’s report said.
The findings are the latest salvo in Pokorny’s yearslong war on MTA fraud, which last week landed four LIRR men and one subway worker in handcuffs for alleged federal program shenanigans.
The MTA told The Post in a statement Friday, “The LIRR has implemented a series of aggressive time and attendance controls to increase oversight and accountability, including a new timekeeping system to verify attendance, enhanced oversight of fleet vehicles, and on-the-spot inspections of work sites.
“The MTA’s efforts have already resulted in a reduction of $105 million in overtime in 2019 alone, and the implementation of a five-year plan to cut overtime costs by nearly $1 billion is underway. Appropriate disciplinary actions have been taken, and the LIRR continues to pursue additional measures to root out waste, fraud and abuse wherever it occurs.”
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