Ten MTA employees, including two supervisors, have been arrested in the long-running faked signal inspection scandal that has been roiling the Transit Authority for two years now. The workers are being accused of collectively filing 33 false inspection reports during 2009 and 2010 under the direction of their supervisors. What they were supposed to be inspecting? Oh, just the very mechanisms that control subway traffic.
"Failing to properly inspect the subway system can lead to delays in service and, potentially, endanger the safety of subway riders," Manhattan DA Cy Vance said in a statement announcing the arrests. Each of the inspectors were charged with one or more felony counts of tampering with public records, which carries a maximum of seven years in prison.
Basically the inspectors were supposed to be going out into the tracks and, after confirming the signals were working, scanning barcodes off the inspected signals. But unfortunately that doesn't appear to be what these guys were doing. Instead they were simply scanning copies of the barcodes that were kept in one of the inspector's lockers (which were found by investigators) and saying they'd done the inspections.
Lawyers for the accused say that it wasn't their fault exactly. It wasn't like they were getting money out of cheating. As the TWU Local 100, which is footing their member's legal bills, put it: "Our Signal Maintainers gained no financial benefit, or advantage of any kind by completing these unrealistic workloads, and submitting the reports demanded by management."
Arthur Z. Schwartz, a lawyer for six of the inspectors and the union, elaborated for the press yesterday, saying his clients "were ordered to meet quotas that some might describe as impossible" in order to hit their productivity numbers. "The pressure on these individuals to do this or suffer consequences all came from above," he went on. "And yet all we’ve seen is the guys at the bottom of the chain who are getting in trouble here."
The DA's office says that it looked into whether the practice started at the top but could not find evidence of it.