New York Daily News: City Council Members Call for Ax of Subway Inspection Cheaters
By Pete Donohue
January 7, 2011
City Council members Thursday demanded NYC Transit staffers be fired - if not jailed - for falsifying subway inspection and maintenance reports.
"I have steam coming out of my ears," said City Councilwoman Jessica Lappin (D-Manhattan). "They put millions of lives at risk."
Councilman Peter Koo (D-Queens) also called for strong discipline to deter future misconduct in the Signals Division.
"You have to kill the chicken to scare the monkeys," Koo said, using a Chinese proverb about utilizing forceful action to deter unwanted behavior.
The Council members made their comments at a Transportation Committee hearing.
MTA Inspector General Barry Kluger's office revealed evidence last year that the inspection and maintenance of signals and switches were being falsified. A criminal probe is underway.
Identifying the culpable signal maintainers, supervisors or managers has been hampered by a computer system so antiquated it can't reveal who made specific entries, authorities have said.
A task force recently completed a review of the system and determined it to be safe despite the falsified reports, according to Wynton Habersham, the newly appointed chief electrical officer at NYC Transit.
Outside experts retained by NYC Transit, meanwhile, question whether agency inspection standards are excessively high. There are 22 mandatory tests, and the most critical tasks are to be performed on each signal and switch every 30 or 90 days.
Workers have complained about not having time to do all the work assigned to them and said they fear punishment if they buck the system, authorities have said.
Transport Workers Union Local 100 President John Samuelsen blasted management for reducing the ranks of signal division workers over the years.
Kluger submitted written testimony to the committee praising NYC Transit President Thomas Prendergast for taking steps to make "radical changes in the operation of signals inspections, management oversight and agency culture."
Previous administrators failed to fix the problem after inspector generals issued reports about falsification of records in the division in 2000 and 2006, Kluger said.