Metropolitan Transportation Authority - New York City Transit, Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority, MTA Bus Company, and Staten Island Railway

 

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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Metropolitan Transportation Authority: New York City Transit, Manhattan and
Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority, MTA Bus Company, and Staten Island Railway
Employee Qualifications, Hiring, and Promotions


Issued: January 17, 2019
Link to full audit report 2017-S-48

Purpose
To determine whether the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) uses similar hiring and promotion policies, procedures, and directives for New York City Transit (Transit), Manhattan and Bronx Surface Transit Operating Authority (MaBSTOA), MTA Bus Company (MTA Bus), and Staten Island Railway (SIR). The audit also examined whether the MTA has established controls over the interagency movement of employees and if there are opportunities for improprieties in the hiring, promotion, or supervision of employees. The audit covered the period January 1, 2014 through September 5, 2017.

Background
The MTA preserves and enhances the quality of life and economic health of the New York metropolitan region through cost-efficient provision of safe, on-time, reliable, and clean transportation services. Transit, a constituent agency of the MTA, provides subway and bus services to New York City (NYC). MaBSTOA, a subsidiary of Transit, operates buses in upper Manhattan and the Bronx. MTA Bus, a subsidiary of the MTA, provides bus services in the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens. SIR, a subsidiary of the MTA, provides rapid transit service on Staten Island. Transit is governed by the provisions of the New York State Civil Service Law (Law). MaBSTOA, MTA Bus, and SIR are not subject to the Law.

Section 1210 of the Public Authorities Law provides that the appointment, promotion, and continuance of employment of all Transit employees is governed by the provisions of the Law and is subject to the rules of the NYC Municipal Civil Service Commission. As such, Transit employees are assigned to job titles that are generally classified as competitive and non-competitive. Between January 2014 and July 2017, Transit had 41,929 active employees broadly categorized as operating (e.g., Train Operators, Conductors, Bus Maintainers, and Bus Operators) and nonoperating (e.g., Transit Management Analysts, Electrical Engineers, and Attorneys). The hiring and promotion processes used by Transit are determined by title classification. Competitive titles are subject to a Civil Service examination to establish eligibility for appointment; non-competitive titles do not require an examination.

For Transit-specific titles, Transit administers all operating and non-operating title examinations. Transit is responsible for developing, administering, and scoring competitive Civil Service examinations. The resulting eligibility lists are provided to the NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS), which is responsible for administering the lists in accordance with the Law.

For job titles also used at other NYC agencies, the examinations are administered by DCAS. Transit uses the lists to appoint or promote employees in these titles. If there are no active lists, employees hired in these titles are deemed “provisional” until the DCAS examinations are held and the certified lists are available.

For operating titles, Transit administers the examinations for MaBSTOA and MTA Bus; from March 2013 to August 2016, Transit also administered the examinations for SIR operating titles.

For non-operating titles and, since August 2016, SIR operating titles, Job Vacancy Notices (JVNs), which include the required qualifications, are used to hire and promote without any examinations. A JVN is posted on the MTA website, applicants must submit a résumé and/or application for these positions, and then an interview panel selects a candidate. Transit officials also hire and promote using JVNs for these types of titles when a list is not available. However, Transit officials stated that their JVNs for non-operating titles mirror DCAS requirements, and MaBSTOA and MTA Bus JVNs mirror Transit JVNs.

Employees who are paid by one MTA agency but work for another are referred to as “Yogis.” MTA Headquarters (MTAHQ) permits these arrangements to allow MTA agencies to transfer qualified staff from other MTA agencies while allowing the staff to remain in the same pension system and tier and retain existing longevity and benefits. These transfers have also occurred due to consolidations in departments such as the Business Service Center, Legal, Treasury, and Procurement.

As of July 2017, MaBSTOA, MTA Bus, and SIR had a total of about 16,900 active employees. During the audit period, Transit, MaBSTOA, MTA Bus, and SIR, collectively, hired 16,776 employees, promoted 2,909, and hired and promoted 492.

Key Findings

  • Although Transit officials claim that their non-operating titles mirror MaBSTOA and MTA Bus, education and experience requirements at Transit, MaBSTOA, and MTA Bus are not similar for employees in the same/similar titles. Moreover, Transit, MaBSTOA, and MTA Bus JVNs do not mirror DCAS requirements for education and experience, and employees at these agencies did not meet the DCAS education and experience requirements. We found that 9 of 115 sampled non-operating employees were hired or promoted with lower education and experience requirements than those established by DCAS for Civil Service competitive titles and, in some cases, did not meet required qualifications in the JVNs.
  • We also found that personnel records for our sample of 110 employees did not contain evidence that all operating employees who were hired and promoted had undergone drug/alcohol screening (71) and medical examinations (24) required for their job titles. As a result, the MTA lacks assurance that all employees, including Train Operators, Conductors, and Bus Operators, met the fitness level and qualifications to perform the job they were hired for or promoted into.
  • Non-operating employees were hired and promoted to full-time Transit subway work by MaBSTOA through JVNs instead of through the Civil Service list after examination. We identified 51 employees in our sample who were hired or promoted at MaBSTOA who were assigned either to Transit subway work or central administrative departments. Other employees were hired or promoted by Transit using JVNs, despite the availability of certified lists for those titles.
  • Since 2014, the MTA’s Interagency Transfers Policy requires a Yogi Request Justification Questionnaire and a pension evaluation to obtain MTAHQ approval of a request to remain on the original agency payroll while accepting a position in another agency. However, we found that required documentation was largely not completed. Inconsistencies within this process allowed employees to move freely across MTA agencies without resigning from their current agency of employment, potentially leading to abuse and circumventing of the Civil Service process.
  • We also found a lack of required documentation in employee files, including forms meant to prevent nepotism in the workforce, increasing the risk that required Human Resources (HR) policies are not being followed.

Key Recommendations

  • Ensure that employees hired or promoted meet all the requirements in the job specifications and that Transit JVNs follow all DCAS requirements.
  • Comply with the Civil Service regulations that require the use of DCAS-certified lists when hiring/promoting employees at Transit.
  • Ensure that employees doing Transit work at the support departments are hired by Transit using the Civil Service examination process.
  • Review the education and experience requirements for all positions at all four agencies to identify any differences. Take steps to revise and document changes and advise all HR officials.
  • Develop policies and procedures for Transit to use when creating job specifications/qualifications/ examinations on behalf of MaBSTOA.
  • Implement proper documentation policies to ensure all required forms are collected and retained in employee files.

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Carmen Maldonado
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236