Employee overtime at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) decreased by more than $100 million last year, according to payroll data posted today on SeeThroughNY, the Empire Center’s government transparency website. But while the $1.24 billion in overtime was 8 percent below the 2018 record level of $1.35 billion, it was still 46 percent higher than in 2014.

The Empire Center’s payroll data last year showed MTA overtime had jumped $420 million, or 16 percent, between 2017 and 2018. This disclosure prompted several official investigations that ultimately revealed issues including overtime padding by Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) employees, and led the MTA board to impose new work schedule control measures.

Despite the drop in overtime, the MTA’s total payroll spending last year rose at least 0.8 percent, including a regular pay increase of 0.7 percent alone. Overtime spending, while down from 2018, was still 8 percent higher than in 2017. These figures do not include some MTA Police, for which the agency released only partial data subject to a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) appeal by the Empire Center (see below).

The MTA’s top-paid employee in 2019 was Assistant Police Chief Kathleen M. Finneran, whose $362,077 total included $7,208 in overtime. Number two on the list was Andy Byford, the former MTA Transit head who resigned his $360,018 post earlier this year. The MTA’s top 10 also included two other police officers: Detective-Sgt. Robert Rau, whose $340,780 in total pay included $174,874 in overtime, and Lt. Christopher J. Rockett, whose $339,616 in total pay included $83,213 in overtime. Rau and Rockett each pulled down only slightly less than the $347,707 salary of Chairman-CEO Patrick Foye.

Sixty-five of the 100 highest-paid MTA employees during 2019 worked for the agency’s two commuter railroads. Four of the top five overtime earners worked for LIRR, including three who more than tripled their regular pay with overtime. The top five were:

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

All but three MTA subsidiaries included in the data decreased their overtime spending compared to 2018. The three agencies with increased overtime spending were Metro-North Railroad, whose overtime increased by one percent, Bridges and Tunnels, whose overtime increased by nine percent and MTA Bus Company, whose overtime increased by four percent. Average pay increased in all agencies except NYC Transit, as shown in the table below.

The Empire Center has filed an administrative appeal challenging the MTA’s refusal to disclose the names, titles, and pay of an unknown number of MTA police officers in clear violation of the state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL).

The MTA earlier this month responded to the Empire Center’s January 2 FOIL request by saying “certain MTA Police Officers” had been removed from the payroll records because it could “endanger the life or safety” of the individuals listed, an exclusion allowed by FOIL only in rare circumstances.

The Empire Center has litigated several cases in recent years to protect the public’s right to know how government agencies spend money. The MTA paid the Empire Center’s legal costs to settle a 2015 lawsuit after the agency repeatedly failed to respond to FOIL requests in a timely manner, as required by law. The Empire Center has also been litigating since 2010 to force the New York City Police Pension Fund to stop concealing the names of its pensioners on grounds similar to those invoked by the MTA to hide the names of its police officers.

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.

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Empire Center for Public Policy
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The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.