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As MTA hiked fare, Lhota handed out pay raises

Former MTA chairman Joseph Lhota on John Street

Former MTA chairman Joseph Lhota on John Street in Manhattan. (Jan. 22, 2013) Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

Former MTA chairman Joseph Lhota handed out retroactive pay raises -- totaling more than $250,000 -- to the agency's top three presidents and a retired executive at a time when the agency is hiking fares.

The lump sum payments to the four executives -- one as high as $98,000 -- were issued in December, just before Lhota stepped down to run for mayor.

Adam Lisberg, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said the pay raises were promised to the executives and written into their contracts. He said the increases were scheduled for 2009, but executives delayed collecting the monies because the MTA was facing a fiscal crisis that year.

Among those who received pay raises is Long Island Rail Road president Helena Williams, who now earns $243,000 a year. She received a check for $56,000, an amount that's more than some LIRR workers earn an entire year.

Anthony Simon, general chairman of the United Transportation Union, which represents LIRR conductors, criticized the move. MTA management always invoked "shared pain," he said, when the agency looks to freeze wages and cut employees' benefits.

"Where is the shared pain now?" Simon asked.

Williams declined to comment Wednesday. Lhota could not be reached Wednesday for comment, but on Tuesday he told the Daily News, which broke the story, that if he didn't honor the terms of the contracts, they would end up in court.

Williams, who earned $229,000 in 2009, was scheduled to get a $14,000 raise, which would have boosted her pay to $243,000 that year. Her salary remained at $229,000 level from 2009-2012. The $56,000 check represented the monies Williams would have received from 2009-2012 had she taken the pay increase at that time.

The other executives who got pay raises were:

Michael Horodniceanu, president of MTA Capital Construction. He received a lump sum of $61,247.11, and now is paid $294,888.31.

Howard Permut, president of Metro-North Commuter Railroad. He got a lump sum of $98,000 and now is paid $243,000

Joe Smith, retired chief of the MTA's bus operations. He was paid a lump sum of $37,743.63, which included payments for unused vacation and sick days.

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