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4 of top 5 MTA overtime earners are LIRR workers, analysis shows

MTA workers try to get work train back

MTA workers try to get work train back on track in Jamaica, Queens, in October 2019. An analysis released Wednesday found that the MTA's employee overtime had decreased by more than $100 million last year. Credit: Todd Maisel

Four of the five top overtime employees of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority work for the Long Island Rail Road — including three who tripled their regular pay with overtime, according to an analysis released Wednesday.

The analysis, released by the Empire Center for Public Policy, found that the MTA’s employee overtime had decreased by more than $100 million last year to $1.24 billion in overtime — 8% below 2018’s record high of $1.35 billion but 46% higher than in 2014. The analysis was done by analyzing payroll data.

The railroad’s top earners were Junior D. Lambert, an LIRR car repairman, who made $218,877 in overtime, on top of his $78,832 in regular pay; Martina Eugene, an LIRR car repairman, who made $214,492 in overtime and $78,935 in regular pay; Robert A. Friscia, an LIRR mechanic foreman, who made $209,674 in overtime and $106,491 in regular pay; and Patrick N. Damboise, an LIRR track foreman, who made $201,154 in overtime and $103,372 in regular pay, according to the analysis.

A woman who answered the phone at a number registered to Friscia hung up. Lambert said: “No comment at this time. I think I’ll comment next time.” The others couldn’t be reached.

In an emailed statement, Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for the MTA, the LIRR's parent agency, said: “As the Empire Report’s own analysis shows — MTA overtime is at its lowest level in five years and through an aggressive management program is down $105 million last year alone. This was accomplished during a period when on-time performance and reliability rose to modern highs as the MTA surged track and infrastructure maintenance work to levels not seen in years.”

In April, railroad ridership had fallen 97% compared with the same period the year before, when the railroad set a modern-day ridership record, Patrick Foye, MTA chairman, said at the time.

The issue of high amounts of overtime was the subject of an inquiry last year by the MTA inspector general, Carolyn Pokorny. Her investigation found that the MTA’s overtime levels revealed shortcomings on how the practice was subject to oversight. Among her findings was that due to a unreliable system to verify attendance and time worked, some managers relied on the “honor system” to keep track.

"High overtime earners at [the] LIRR who work in remote locations are a particular focus for the [Office of the Inspector General], as we repeatedly have seen cases of time abuse with this population," said the inspector general’s report, which said that a lack of "a proper system to verify this population's time and attendance could create opportunities for employees to claim overtime that was not worked or even assigned to them without being detected."

Last year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo criticized the MTA, which he controls, over its overtime practices.

With Alfonso A. Castillo

Top five

Four of the top five overtime earners employed by the MTA worked for LIRR, including three who more than tripled their regular pay with overtime.

• Junior D. Lambert, LIRR car repairman, received $218,877 in overtime in addition to $78,832 in regular pay

• Richard R. Bourt, Jr., Metro-North Railroad track supervisor, received $216,123 in addition to $103,607 in regular pay;

• Martina Eugene, LIRR car repairman, received $214,492 in overtime in addition to $78,935 in regular pay

• Robert A. Friscia, LIRR mechanic foreman, received $209,674 in overtime in addition to $106,491 in regular pay

• Patrick N. Damboise, LIRR track foreman, received $201,154 in overtime in addition to $103,372 in regular pay

Source: The Empire Center

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