Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to replace the MTA’s Inspector General with a lawyer from his own office, according to two sources (one in the governor’s office, and another in the MTA).
Barry Kluger, who’s been the MTA’s Inspector General for the past 12 years, will be replaced by Carolyn Pokorny, who is Special Counsel for Public Integrity in Cuomo’s office.
This comes as the IG’s office is reviewing all overtime payments at the MTA, following a report that found overtime costs spiked 16 percent last year, with one Long Island Railroad worker earning $344,147 in overtime pay.
Prior to serving in Cuomo’s administration, Pokorny was Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor to Attorney General Loretta Lynch for two years, and worked in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn before that. She’s kept a relatively low profile, but made headlines when a drug dealer she prosecuted and was sentenced to life in prison lunged at her with a razor blade in court. She also prosecuted former State Senator Pedro Espada.
The Inspector General’s Office is part of the MTA and relies on information provided by the agency for its work. The office hasn’t released an audit since 2016 or an investigation since 2014, although a source at the agency confirms that the office has looked into payroll and overtime violations; they just haven’t all been reported to the public.
In its sweeping report recommending how the MTA can restore public trust, the open-government advocacy group Reinvent Albany suggested the Inspector General’s office could play a larger oversight role.
“In the past it hasn’t been seen as particularly pro-active or aggressive in rooting out waste, fraud and abuse, but I think the pressure is on for them to perform much better,” said Rachael Fauss, senior research analyst with Reinvent Albany.
Fauss said Pokorny’s background as a prosecutor bodes well for the agency. “There’s certainly an expectation from the public whoever comes in will do it with as much independence as possible.”
The IG serves a five-year term and must be approved from the State Senate. A Senate spokesperson said it has not received any recommendations regarding a new IG appointment.
Kluger was a prosecutor in the Bronx District Attorney's office for 32 years before joining the MTA. Investigations during his tenure include a scathing reveal in 2014 that every single MetroNorth structures foreman had been using work hours for unrelated activities, as well as falsified time sheets. More recently, he oversaw an investigation into an MTA manager accepting bribes which resulted in a federal prison sentence.
The MTA and governor’s office didn’t provide comment on the appointment.
Update, May 30, 2019: Pokorny was "unanimously confirmed" by the State Senate as the new IG on Thursday, May 30th, according to Governor Cuomo's office.
"The MTA finally has the management and money it needs to perform, and now more than ever the Office of the MTA Inspector General will be central to ensuring the agency runs efficiently and effectively," Cuomo said in a statement. "Carolyn is a brilliant and dedicated career prosecutor and her leadership at the MTA will do untold good for its customers and all New Yorkers."
Pokorny was confirmed at a hearing in Albany, where she talked about the time she was tackled to the ground in court and nearly had her throat slashed by a razor: "I showed up at work the day after somebody tried to kill me because no one and nothing is going to stop me form doing my job that is what government employees expect of their leaders, and what tax payers deserve."
Stephen Nessen is the transportation reporter for WNYC. You can follow him on Twitter @s_nessen.
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