The resignation of Chairman/CEO Joe Lhota gives New York State government an opportunity to bring the MTA’s governance back under the rule of law and to stop accepting blatant conflicts of interest by the head of the MTA or other state authorities. The MTA has a significant credibility problem in part because of political games played by Governor Cuomo and Joe Lhota. This includes them repeatedly pushing the legal fiction that Lhota was working only as the unpaid Chairman of the Board and had “delegated” away his authority as Chief Executive Officer. They did this because as the paid “head of agency” Lhota would have been prohibited from accepting over a million dollars a year for his full-time job with NYU Langone.
State Law says the head of the MTA is both Chair of the Board and CEO
Public Authorities Law, Title 11 §1263
4. (a) Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the chairman shall be the chief executive officer of the authority and shall be responsible for the discharge of the executive and administrative functions and powers of the authority.
Immediate Steps to Boost Confidence in the MTA’s Honesty and Integrity
- State Senate Democratic Majority should hold full and public confirmation hearing for next Chair/CEO of MTA
- Next head of MTA should be full-time CEO, have no outside income and should be subject to all conflict of interest laws governing “heads of agencies.”
- State Senate and Assembly should hold multiple hearings on MTA service, capital plan and governance aimed at giving a full and complete picture of MTA’s finances, status of state commitment to the MTA capital plan
- Legislature and Governor should consider new governance models to replace currently dysfunctional MTA board.
- Legislature and Governor should compel MTA to improve basic transparency in budgeting, capital plan project status and Freedom of Information Law.