Seven subway track inspectors have been suspended without pay — amid allegations by the MTA inspector general that they failed to conduct inspections and lied about it on official forms, The Post has learned.
Investigators from IG Carolyn Pokorny’s office stationed at platforms along inspection routes said the seven workers “were nowhere to be found” during scheduled walking tours, despite affirming otherwise on official forms, according to the IG’s Dec. 28 report, which was obtained by The Post.
The seven workers were flagged to the IG by supervisors after news reports of debris falling from elevated tracks. Investigators also caught them using personal cell phones while on the job — in violation of authority rules.
The IG’s office did not identify any specific track issues as part of their probe, which began in January 2020.
But the allegations of lying and improper cell phone usage “raise alarm about the diligence with which the Inspector approached their work, due to distractions or their complete absence from the tracks, thereby creating significant safety risks,” the report said.
“In light of the weak controls and the falling debris, the actual number of partial or completely absent inspections is likely higher,” the IG’s office wrote. “These Inspectors treated their duties like a no- or low-show job.”
Interim Transit President Sarah Feinberg moved to fire the group on Dec. 29, the day after receiving the report. Disciplinary proceedings remain underway.
Feinberg told WABC-TV last week that the supervisors had uncovered track defects, but “no major, you know, life-threatening or more significant issue that causes concern.”
“They were not inspecting the pieces of track that they were responsible for,” Feinberg told the station.
“I didn’t want those folks touching anything that was safety-sensitive, so we removed those folks. And then I had all supervisors immediately inspect the entire system.”
All seven workers admitted to the charges, the IG report said — but their union claims the allegations are based on a lack of understanding of transit authority practices.
“Track inspectors inspect the tracks in all kinds of ways, and depending what their workload is on any given day, it may not conform to an expected procedure. It’s unpredictable,” said TWU International President John Samuelsen, who began his career as a subway “track walker.”
“There are systematic problems, but [the IG]’s just addressing the symptoms. She’s just nitpicking.”
The cell phone allegations, meanwhile, are “absurd,” Samuelsen said. He argued track workers regularly use their phones for work, and that the MTA should “show some understanding” about them taking personal calls amid COVID-19.
Samuelsen claimed the IG’s findings will not be enough to warrant dismissal, and took aim at Pokorny and Feinberg for an “overreaction.”
“Two privileged white women have just turned the lives of seven people of color totally upside down, in an incompetent overreaction that was not rooted in any safety conditions uncovered on the tracks,” he said.
An MTA IG spokesman confirmed the report’s authenticity.
“While we did not provide this document to The Post, we believe our report speaks for itself and we firmly support that these individuals be afforded due process which includes allowing the union to bring forth their evidence or arguments at the arbitration hearing and allow the legal process to work,” the spokesman said.
MTA spokesman Tim Minton came to the defense of both Feinberg and Pokorny.
“Ensuring tracks are safe is one of our highest priorities and we will never compromise on that or lose focus on protecting riders and employees,” Minton said in a statement.
“Sarah Feinberg served as the country’s top railroad safety regulator in the Obama Administration and Carolyn Pokorny was legendary for taking on the toughest investigations at the U.S. Justice Department – when it comes to investigating misconduct regarding safety these women are beyond reproach.”