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MTA Inspector General Kluger steps down; Cuomo to appoint new person

MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger in 2009.

MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger in 2009. Credit: Patrick Andrade

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s inspector general is stepping down from his post just weeks after saying his office would look into the MTA’s alarmingly high overtime payouts, officials said Friday.

Barry Kluger, 69, announced his retirement Friday, clearing the way for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to pick the agency’s next internal  watchdog head, officials with the MTA and Cuomo’s office said. Kluger held the position for 12 years, after coming from the Bronx district attorney’s office.

In a statement, MTA chairman Patrick Foye praised Kluger for “an extraordinary 44-year career in public service keeping New Yorkers safe and ensuring their tax dollars are spent wisely.”

“I wish him the best in his well-deserved retirement and thank him on behalf of the MTA, our customers, and all New Yorkers,” Foye said.

Cuomo spokesman Patrick Muncie said "a nomination for the position will be made in the coming days."

Kluger declined to comment Friday. His retirement comes two weeks after he said he would launch a probe into overtime spending at the MTA, following the release of a report by the Empire Center for Public Policy that revealed an unusually high rate of overtime earned by some employees, especially those at the Long Island Rail Road.

The report revealed that six of the top 10 earners at the MTA last year were LIRR laborers, whose senior status allowed them to significantly increase their take-home pay by piling on overtime. LIRR chief measurement officer Thomas Caputo was the MTA's highest-paid employee last year, making $344,147 in overtime on top of his base salary of $117,499, according to the report.

Despite Kluger’s commitment to investigating the issue, Cuomo, and his representative on the MTA Board, Lawrence Schwartz, called on the authority to hire a former prosecutor to investigate alleged overtime abuse at the MTA. Under pressure from its labor representatives, the MTA Board on Wednesday backed off the plan, instead opting to hire a consultant to review time and attendance procedures.

A source with knowledge of the situation said Cuomo will look to appoint Carolyn Pokorny, his special counsel for public integrity, to become the new inspector general, whose office is responsible for combating waste, fraud, misconduct and corruption by the MTA and its contractors.

Although, as a public authority the MTA is supposed to maintain some autonomy from the state, Cuomo in recent months has sought to assume more control of the agency, including by earlier this year ousting several MTA Board members approved by prior administrations. In January, Cuomo put forth a 10-point plan to overhaul the MTA, including by establishing his “clear authority over” it.

The inspector general also routinely works with prosecutors to help develop criminal cases. The Queens district attorney’s office recently confirmed it was consulting with Kluger on his overtime probe. The U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan also is looking into MTA overtime use.

A regular attendee of MTA Board meetings, Kluger had not issued a report or audit on the LIRR since 2016, when he examined inventory controls at the railroad’s maintenance-of-way repair shop.

Before taking the job, Kluger worked in the Bronx district attorney’s office for 32 years, including 18 years as chief assistant district attorney. He was nominated for the inspector general job by former Gov. Elliot Spitzer in 2007.

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