Gov. Cuomo blames ‘bad apples’ for MTA overtime scandal

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No line of work is immune to “bad apples” like the five current or former MTA employees charged with bilking the agency out of thousands of dollars in overtime pay, Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted Thursday.

Cuomo weighed in on the scandal during an unrelated Albany press briefing held hours after MTA “overtime king” Thomas Caputo and four other current or former agency workers were charged with billing for massive amounts of OT while they were allegedly bowling, vacationing or otherwise taking it easy.

“I think there are bad apples in every line of work,” said Cuomo. “You’re gonna have people who take advantage of the system.

“I was the attorney general in this state,” he continued. “There are bad bankers, there are bad brokers, there are bad doctors there are bad college presidents.”

Caputo and his four co-defendants each allegedly racked up north of $240,000 in overtime across 2018, ranking at or near the top of the state-run MTA’s payroll — and easily surpassing the $179,500 state salary Cuomo drew that year.

Following reporting fiscal watchdog group the Empire Center in 2019 that MTA’s OT tab had swelled from $849 million in 2014 to $1.4 billion in 2018, the agency’s inspector general found that many supervisors were relying on an “honor system” to log employees’ hours.

In response, transit officials pledged to roll out fingerprint-powered time clocks to track worker hours, though the effort has stalled during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Agency records show overtime spending down around $200 million compared to 2018.

The governor said Thursday that what the MTA needs is greater oversight and restrictions to make scams harder to pull off.

“You have to have a system in place that can catch the person who commits fraud,” he said. “Locks keep honest people honest. Have a system in place where if somebody defrauds the system, you catch them!”

But Cuomo said that anyone who wants to game the system badly enough will find a way.

“You will never eradicate all bad actors in any system,” he said. “You’re always going to have bad apples.”

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