Transparency Needed for NYC Transit President Role, Police Overtime and Outer Borough Funds

     

Testimony of Rachael Fauss, Reinvent Albany to MTA Board
Re: Greater Transparency Needed for NYCT President Role, Police Overtime and Outer Borough Funds

February 26, 2020

Good morning, I am Rachael Fauss, Senior Research Analyst for Reinvent Albany. We advocate for more transparent and accountable state government – including for authorities like the MTA.

I am here to speak to three issues: first, to ask that the MTA provide a detailed, written description of the new role of agency presidents given leadership and organizational changes; second, to support the call for greater transparency of overtime related to MTA Police; and third, to reiterate our call for greater transparency of the full scope of Outer Borough Transit Fund projects.

First, with the leadership transition underway in NYCT with a new Interim President, we ask the MTA to provide a written description of the role of agency presidents. Last July’s transformation plan provided a “blueprint,” but not final decisions regarding management and governance. This is essential for the public to understand how this position has changed, and what the total responsibilities for this position entail.

Second, we support Commissioner Bob Linn’s request for greater information about the use of overtime by MTA Police. As we noted previously, the August 2019 overtime analysis by Morrison Foerster neglected to examine police, but instead focused on the operating agencies. Given the hiring of 500 additional officers costing the agency $249 million we believe would have been better spent on maintaining or increasing transit service, the MTA cannot afford to ignore the potential cost of increased overtime by police.

As noted in the MTA’s January 2020 budget variance report from this month’s Finance Committee materials, a cost overrun of $.5M was incurred in January on MTA HQ Police overtime, partly in support of the MTA’s “fare evasion and “quality of life mitigation efforts.” The Overtime Decomposition Report, however, did not even mention this cost overrun related to police overtime. Overtime reports should clearly show the total amount of overtime used compared to the budgeted amount, broken out by agency and function, such as MTA Police.

Lastly, at Monday’s Finance Committee meeting, we asked the MTA Board and staff to help shed a light on what has so far been a secretive process for determining projects from the Outer Borough Transit Fund. We recognize that the Legislature and Governor have the sole authority to determine which projects are funded, but so far, the process for their approval has been opaque. Projects have been non-strategic, with some, such as the toll rebates, not addressing transit deserts through enhanced mass transit.

The MTA can help increase transparency by releasing a detailed list of all Outer Borough Transit Fund Projects, including all known information, such as the purposes of projects, legislative sponsors and the amount of funds used for projects.

Thank you for your consideration.