The Empire Center for Public Policy this week filed Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) appeals with the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) after six of its seven subsidiaries failed to release public payroll records.
The appeals come after the Empire Center filed its annual requests for the information in January in order to make the data available to the public on SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center’s transparency website. New York City Transit, Metro North Railroad and the Long Island Railroad were among the subsidiaries that failed to meet statutory obligations under FOIL, let alone produce the records, as state law requires. The seventh subsidiary, the New York City Convention Center Operating Corporation, provided payroll data in response to an earlier appeal, after missing the deadline for acknowledging the Center’s request.
This isn’t the first time the MTA has failed to respond to FOIL requests. In 2015, the Empire Center was forced to seek legal action against the MTA for failing to provide payroll information in a timely manner. The MTA settled with the Empire Center out of court and agreed to pay the Empire Center’s legal costs.
“We’d rather see the MTA use its money to fix the subway than to pay our legal fees again,” said Tim Hoefer, executive director of the Empire Center, “but that’s where this train is headed.”
Past MTA payroll records requests have revealed items of public concern, such as last year’s 20 percent jump in overtime spending and instances of employees tripling their pay through a lax overtime system.
The Center plans to take legal action later this month if MTA agencies fail to respond in the next 10 business days, per state law. The delay comes at a time when the MTA is under scrutiny by Governor Cuomo and the legislature for wasteful spending and improper reporting.
The Empire Center, based in Albany, is an independent, not-for-profit, non-partisan think tank dedicated to promoting policies that can make New York a better place to live, work and raise a family.