Long Island lawmakers demand hearings into LIRR overtime abuse
Long Island lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are demanding hearings into off-the-rails payroll costs at the Long Island Rail Road over revelations that its top earner raked in $344,147 in overtime alone last year.
They say their constituents are fuming over reports that recently retired Chief Measurement Operator Thomas Caputo took in the staggering sum last year, while train delays hit a 19-year high.
“I couldn’t quote my constituents who called me today because it wouldn’t be acceptable for a family paper — a lot of F-bombs,” raged state Sen. Phil Boyle (R-Bay Shore).
“It speaks to incredible mismanagement when a chief measurement operator makes considerably more than the president of the United States . . . I would like to see hearings, I would like to see the Assembly and Senate do something about this and call the management on the carpet.”
New data from the watchdog Empire Center revealed this week that in addition to Caputo’s bloated paycheck, LIRR overtime costs surged by $50 million from 2017 to 2018 and have swelled by more than $115 million since 2013.
By Friday, fellow Republican Sens. Ken Lavelle and John Flanagan and Democratic Sens. Todd Kaminsky, John Brooks, Anna Kaplan, Jim Gaughran, Kevin Thomas and Monica Martinez had all joined the chorus in calling to grill the commuter railroad’s brass.
“I think this is the perfect time for [LIRR] President [Phillip] Eng to look inward for ideas on how to address the LIRR’s overtime policies,” said Gaughran (D-Huntington).
“The LIRR’s top-heavy administration has yet again failed to grasp the best practices to run an efficient and cost-effective system.”
The calls come a day after sources revealed that MTA Chairman Pat Foye has ordered a crackdown on overtime abuse at the LIRR.
Caputo, who retired this month after 30 years, logged an astonishing 3,864 overtime hours last year — thanks, in part, to provisions in the LIRR’s union contracts that give workers with seniority first pick on any OT opportunities they are qualified to perform, according to the MTA.
A state probe could thrust these issues into the spotlight right as officials are preparing to renegotiate that contract, which expired last week.
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tim Kennedy said he also supports hearings and noted that the recent state budget calls for a “forensic audit” of the MTA’s finances.
“I look forward to reviewing the results of that audit, as well as Chairman Foye’s plan for addressing excessive overtime in the short term,” Kennedy said.
“I have continually raised concerns, both publicly and privately, about inflated salaries, bloated bureaucracy, and potential overtime fraud and abuse at the MTA.”
Meanwhile, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office said it has 13 active investigations into the MTA, including into the LIRR.
“Comptroller DiNapoli has been sounding the alarm about the MTA and LIRR budget and management problems . . . for years,” said spokesman Matt Sweeney.
A 2014 probe by DiNapoli into LIRR work on federal projects turned up shocking instances of time-sheet stuffing and sloppy oversight, including a foreman claiming 24 consecutive overtime hours.
Foye issued a statement saying, “We welcome these hearings, and I look forward to attending.”