Governor Cuomo's chosen head of the MTA says he doesn't actually work for the public authority, and is thus totally allowed to take on an abundance of board positions and lobbying gigs for massive private companies, some of which happen to have billions of dollars of transit-related interests in front of the MTA.
According to a new report from the Times, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota has not only kept his job as Chief of Staff at NYU Langone Health, but has continued lobbying city officials over traffic matters there, despite promising not to. Additionally, the report found that Lhota serves on eight boards across Manhattan and Long Island, including a lucrative paid position at Madison Square Garden, which he took in December. As Politico's Dana Rubenstein reported at the time, Lhota started the job just as the arena was entering negotiations with the city over the fate of Penn Station (which is owned by Amtrak).
Records show that while Lhota initially worked close to forty hours per week as MTA Chairman, he's since scaled back that commitment. In March, he worked 22.1 hours per week at the MTA, and 32.5 hours per week at his other jobs, according to the Times. Those additional obligations netted Lhota $2.5 million in private income last year—nearly $1 million more than he made the previous year, when he was not in charge of the MTA.
But where some might see a conflict of interest, the indefatigable transit boss merely sees a No Conflict Situation.
In an interview, Mr. Lhota said that his other jobs did not pose conflicts because he was not actually an M.T.A. official. He said he had forfeited the $300,000 M.T.A. salary he was entitled to and delegated his responsibilities to several other executives, except for chairing the authority’s board of directors and setting its high-level mission.
Apparently, Lhota's plan to save the crumbling transit system is actually just one of his many side hustles. Just like those manic Fiverr subway ads prescribe: Follow through on your follow through, push the dreamers aside, and chase that pure, unadulterated high of sleep deprivation. It's 2018, and if the rest of us can't manage to earn a single wage from a single job, why should our millionaire MTA chairman?
"The ailing MTA deserves a full time and conflict-free chairman and CEO," Common Cause director Susan Lerner tells Gothamist. "That's what it's had in the past, and that's what it deserves even more today."
Lerner adds, "If any individual feels that the only way they can have a conflict is if they are paid, that raises a question of whom do they feel they owe their loyalty. Is it a ranking based on the size of their salary? Because that's not acceptable for the chairman of the MTA."
We reached out to the MTA and Governor Cuomo's office to see which of Joe Lhota's many side gigs ranks as most important to him. We will update once we hear back.